Paintings sometimes reproduce tangible things, and at other times depict less tangible things from the artist’s mind. Wherever it comes from, it is borrowed from the outside world, relative to the canvas. To take that idea further, all things tangible or otherwise, seem to have an inherent potential to be reproduced or represented as image. However, before those things are transferred onto canvas, they seem not to matter, not significant, merely in a state of physical being, without matter. Exploring those states pre-matter, refining them and composing them into a state of matter is the realm of the artist.
Sojung Lee seeks starting points for her images in the most random forms. The artist’s process begins by applying a thin mulberry pulp paper over the surface to be painted. She applies cinnabar red ink (jumuk-朱墨), over the hanji to permeate to its own characteristics. The permeation is organic and at times, odd. Lee finds images in the random ink patterns as if by pareidolia, like archaeologist in prehistoric caves seeking murals. She draws out forms from chaos, and gives greater material to make the forms even more tangible. Even with a set pattern of work, the amount of dye, brush stroke and pressure cause a different outcome every time.
In the chaotic pattern of the red ink seeping into the paper, anything can be found. Everything is possible when it is in that state, but also merely a state a possibility. Traces lead to a realization of certain existences, which in turn give forth form. The practice is similar to looking up at the clouds in the sky and imagining familiar faces, animals, and object, pointing to it to draw attention to it and giving it a name. Traces have a life of their own that move and develop by their own accord, but to recognize and define what it may be, is to make it static. The junction between the dynamic undefined and the static defined is where Lee’s work is concerned.
Sojung Lee’s latest solo exhibition is titled . Lee worked like a sleuth seeking clues in the traces of red ink permeated throughout the surface. The permeating traces of ink was initiated by her, but once they began trickling into the hanji, she felt that it took on a life of its own. She painted over those hints and traces with ink, but the rich oils of the red ink are still very visible through the newly applied black ink. As more ink is applied, the traces deepen. The act of repeated cover up is a metaphor about covering one’s found clues. Are the found clues even there? The artist’s dissatisfaction with found clues shows a glimpse into her iterative process surrounding self-reflection and self-denial.
The images based on coincidental discoveries develop into something of a new dimension. Lee lifted the traced for of four of her works based on the coincidental ink seepage, and superimposed the traced lines to connect into a single form. Taking lines like they were pieces from a plastic model set, Lee took four lines from the images and transposed them to a new canvas. The four original works became merely the means for something else, almost like a perishable good. The four images from red ink occurs by chance, but the new image composed of them is perhaps an inevitable creation.
To the combined image, Lee adds grammatical symbols like questions marks and exclamation marks, as well as orthographic symbols like paragraph markers or indentation tabs. She says that when she is in a state of deep focus and flow into a particular task, she often feels like the story is forgotten and only the grammatical symbols remain. Orthography symbols are the artist’s desire to correct what has happened (image) and to restructure into a different status. A happenstance trace lead to a subconscious image, and now she is passing through a process of trying to control the outcome and accept what has unexpectedly.
Surely, the master of one’s destiny is not man alone. It is coincidence that drives life forward. We recognize coincidences that alter lives, and end up living to overcome them. We perceive and react to the most random of events, and we owe it to our being to find the clues to those events, and to accept those events as what it is life.