To experience JeeYoung Lee’s work is to voyage into a new world, an alternate reality of possibilities. Her work is a foray into the limitless adventure that art presents, capturing imaginary and sublime existentialism in ways that only a mind as powerful as hers, and a heart as magical can capture.
JeeYoung Lee is a South Korean visual artist, exuding her super artistic powers through Photography, Sculpture, Installation, Painting and Constructed Realities, Alice in Wonderland has got nothing on her.
Recipient of multiple artistic awards including the Sovereign Art Prize (2012), JeeYoung Lee is one of the most promising up-and-rising humans of the Korean artistic world.
In this beautiful interview with her, we attempt to understand her wonderful mind and the works she has produced:
For Creative Girls: Your work is what inspiration and dreams are made of! What are the things that inspire you the most and spur you on?
The biggest influence on my work is my life.
I draw from my inner self, the social pressure I feel as a member of Korea’s society, and contemporary events that affect me. The emotional ups and downs, human relationships, my memories and experience, dreams, my life as an artist and changes in the environment are all important subjects in my artwork.
Also, when I need to be inspired, I turn to visual stimulus on media and sometimes literature.
A lot of your seem to stem from a desire to create new realities, do tell us more about the realities you create and want to create.
Fundamentally, the stage/set in my photographs represents my heart. I describe my inner psychological landscape in my work. In other words, my work is a metaphorical expression of the reality I have experienced. You can say each scene in my photographs is a story put together with fragments from my memory and experience. My life will continue to change and so will the stage that I create. My plan is to connect the varied complex of life with my personal emotional experience.
Recently, I had some time to think about the negative effect that humans have made to mother nature due to the COVID-19 situation. I am planning to work on this subject as well.
You’re like Alice in Wonderland, except you are the one creating the wonderland. How do you choose the medium for expressing your art?
I work with installation and photography.
I use Installation as a medium because it is the perfect way to realize the images I have in my head. I reconfigure my perception of reality, which is ‘real’ to me by all means, but surreal in the sense that it only exists in my head. That is why I decided to build the psychological landscape in the form of installation to bring it into the real world. Secondly, I want to document the objectified scene as an observer. Taking a photo of the set that I have created allows me to look at my recreated reality from a more objective point of view. When the set is abolished, the photo becomes a document of a past event. I often come to terms with the events that prompted me to create the set in the first place as I destroy it.
In addition, the reason why I stick to photography is because of its unique characteristics.
The distinctive feature of photography is that it records the truth and is proof of reality. As I mentioned above, my artistic world is surreal because it is a visualization of my mental landscape that only exists in my imagination. But it portrays my take on reality inspired by actual experiences and emotions so it is ‘real’ in a way. Because I use photography as a medium, what I capture becomes a reality. Analyzing the self is one of the motivating factors for me in creating. People try to capture a moment in time on photography all the time. We always go back to these images to remember the moment. The mental landscape that I capture on camera is the same. It is a personal record that helps me document and reflects my life.
Can you tell us more about your background and how you became an Artist?
I grew up as the only child in a conservative Korean household. Becoming an artist was my childhood dream. My mother never made a debut as an artist but she majored fine art in college. I remember her old oil paintings hung up on the wall in our house. I recall telling myself I will become an artist someday as I looked at those paintings. When it was time for me to decide a major, I had to choose visual communication design over fine art because my parents thought the former had better prospects. During the early undergraduate years, I was interested in production design and commercial film, although a few months as an assistant at a commercial production company deterred me from that industry for good. I think it didn’t offer the creative freedom I had expected. Senior year was when I really got to look back on my decisions and my identity. It was also when I made up my mind to become a full-time artist. My debut as an artist was in 2009 when I graduated from grad school. Now, this is my way of connecting and communicating with the world.
What is your daily process like? Walk us through a typical day in your life.
Usually, I start the day checking my e-mail and daily schedule as I sip my morning coffee. Then I take my dog for a walk to a nearby park. Afterwards, I head to my studio. Sometimes, I would go shopping for material and equipment to an art supply store or a hardware store. In the evening, when I finish work, I practice yoga at a yoga studio. Finally, at night, I take my dog for a walk in the neighbourhood to wrap up the day.
But I don’t always follow the same daily routine. Because my work is labour-intensive, repetitive, and extremely time-consuming. This means I barely get to sleep when working on a tight schedule.
Does your environment, living in Seoul, play a part in your creative process and work?
I am influenced by the environment surrounding me and use the influences and emotions I have received from the surroundings as the subject in my work. The characteristics of the city, for example, Seoul is a rapidly changing city sensitive to the trend. Moreover, the city is familiar with the ‘hurry-hurry’ culture. The competition is fierce, while social expectations toward each individual are very high. Sometimes I projected the social pressures I felt in the society into my work.
Also, Seoul is a very convenient city so I can easily get the materials.
Tell us about 3 women artists that inspire you.
Chiharu Shiota, Yayoi Kusama, Pina Bausch.
To immerse yourself in more wondrous works by JeeYoung Lee, follow her on Instagram and Website.
Gbemi Lolade Adekanmbi is the cultivator of For Creative Girls. She is a firm believer in the fact that there is no division between the ability for science and the ability for Art. Her goal is to cultivate this ability with as many people as possible and make creatives a living, breathing part of how the world, organisations, and societies run.