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  leesoeui(2009-03-17 20:43:07, Hit : 14765, Vote : 3820
 dailyvanguard-Visiting artist So-Eui Lee Song for butterflies Visiting artist So-Eui Lee James Jack Print this article Share this article Published: Friday, March 16, 2007 Updated: Monday, July 14, 2008 So-Eui Lee is an unassuming artist who is both erudite and na've. Originally trained as an ink landscape painter in the traditional Zen style, Lee has transcended her schooling to discover a style that is wholly her own. In the early '90s her paintings captivated the essence of classical subjects in nature: cliffs, rivers, mist, mountains and trees. "Ink is a profound material that requires a great deal of time and effort to master," Lee said. Lee gained her mastery of the brush through diligent practice in tune with the six principles of Chinese painting: spirit resonance, disciplined brush, representation of objects, true coloring, good composition and copying of the masters. Her paintings combine bold Chinese brushwork with Korean iconography that conveys a vibrant worldview. Chinese painters such as Mu Qi and Mi Fu continue to influence Lee's artistic vision. Her current works combine bold Chinese-style lines with Western materials such as stiff brushes and acrylic paint. Lee believes the tools of artistic production are now cross-culturally universal and therefore it is no longer important what materials an artist uses. Lee holds a doctorate from the prestigious Hong-ik University in Seoul, where she completed a historical investigation of the butterfly and peony flower motif in Korean art of the 1700-1910 period. Her knowledge of the historical context for her work drives her deeper into the subject matter, persevering for over a decade now. So-Eui Lee's knowledge of art is not limited to the Far East, as her non-objective work from the mid-'90s bears strong resemblance to works by American painter Jasper Johns from the 1970s. The rotating lines that fill these compositions feel as if they could spin off the canvas at times, bringing the all-over activity of the paintings into a careful state of equipoise. Since 1995, Lee has made a sharp departure from what she perceives to be archaic ink paintings toward brightly colored acrylic and gouache paintings layered on Korean paper. She glues thick fragments of paper to the surface of the paintings in a rainbow-like manner before infusing the works with bright paints. Utilizing long-fibered Korean paper facilitates her compositions by building a complex abstract structure that fills the composition. The shift from black-and-white to color painting was inspired by weekly bus rides she took from Seoul to Kangwondo to lecture on art. During these four-hour rides she observed the cycles of nature through four seasons, noticing the ephemera of nature: blossoms, leaves, insects and other animals in the forest. For a deeper understanding of the profound significance natural cycles play in Korean culture, watch Kim Ki-duk's recent film Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring, a meditation on the inseparability of humans and nature. Since 1995, Lee has turned to flowers and butterflies as the subject of her paintings. She sees all her work as part of a continuum, even though these paintings may appear to be from the hand of a different artist when compared to her earliest ink paintings. The thread that ties her art together is nature, which is the source of inspiration for all her paintings. Lee transforms the ordinary into something extraordinary by asking, "What is the essence of a butterfly?" The Taoist mystic Chuang Tzu once had a dream where he was a butterfly free from the cares of the human world. Upon waking he thought, "Was I a man who dreamt of being a butterfly, or a butterfly now dreaming I am a man?" Lee reminds us that Asian paintings are not just to be seen, but also to be read on a philosophical level. In Korea butterflies represent happiness, longevity and emancipation. Peony flowers suggest marriage, funerals, beauty, and ultimately refer to a state of mind. Butterflies shown with flowers usually refer to copulation and the love between a man and woman, but Lee uses them to represent one's wishes for life's triad of pleasure: a peaceful marriage, abundant offspring and a long life. The semiotics behind Lee's paintings express an anthropomorphic sensibility, whereby worldly ideals are projected onto natural phenomena, raising questions about the relationship between humans and nature: To what degree does the natural world synchronize with our inner world? When we look at nature, what lenses are we looking through? Is it possible to understand nature from the inside out? Referents such as a butterfly are part of a culturally specific language that takes on different meanings depending on who is viewing the work. In the West butterflies are a seen as a personification of a person's soul: whether living, dying or already dead. If Lee truly believes artistic tools have transcended national borders then she needs to consider the significance of her personal icons for international audiences who see through their own cultural lenses. In a festive atmosphere Lee proclaims that viewers can see the work on any level they like. Some see the work in a youthful way, experiencing the simple pleasure of their colorful surfaces. Intellectual viewers see the deeper meaning of the calligraphic features in the work. Lee is playfully expressing a primitive side of human nature in the spirit of Picasso, who once said, "It has taken me a lifetime to learn to paint like a child." There is a tension between the abstract pockets and squares in the paintings and the references to worldly success. In her paintings from 1994, the tactile properties of xuan paper fibers reveal a micro-cosmos of abundance and wonderment without the culturally loaded icons of flowers and butterflies. The super-flat orientation in the work facilitates a sophisticated rendering of space that is more dynamic when unfettered by symbols. Although painting can facilitate communications between people of different cultures, Lee is yearning for deeper interactions with international audiences. As a visiting scholar at Portland State this year, she is expanding her English ability in order to participate in more meaningful cross-cultural dialogues in the future. So-Eui Lee's paintings will be featured in the Autzen Gallery on campus during the first two weeks of April. The show will be comprised of small works on paper executed in Portland, as well as larger works she completed in Seoul last year. With her amplified color palette, Lee is creating a world that zings with hope, a sentiment the world needs today. Lee's brimming optimism will cheerfully illuminate viewers, even if the rain clouds refuse to part for a few more months. Song for Butterflies and Flowers Paintings by So-Eui Lee Autzen Gallery April 2-13 Opening reception: Monday, April 2, 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m.

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