Jamie M. Lee | Summer Shower

Published in Art Radar on May 25, 2016

Jamie M. Lee, “Summer Shower”, 2016, installation view at The Glass Box. Image courtesy the artist and Bongsan Cultural Center.

The Glass Box presents the works of the Korean-American artist Jamie M. Lee, who will present the exhibition “Summer Shower” at the Bongsan Cultural Center in Daegu, South Korea. The artist was the recipient of the Glass Box 2016 Art Star contest and will showcase the exhibition from 29 April to 19 June 2016.

Jamie M. Lee received her BA in Painting and Printmaking from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2001, and her MFA in Painting from Claremont Graduate University, California in 2005. She has since had a number of international solo and group exhibitions in prominent institutions such as Young Eun Museum of Contemporary Art, Gyeonggi-Do, Korea; Hangaram Art Museum, Seoul Arts Center, Seoul; Kips Gallery, New York; Phoenix Gallery, New York; La Artcore Brewey Annex Gallery, Los Angeles; and Saatchi Gallery, London, among others.

Jamie M. Lee, ‘Dreamscape’, 2014, acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 44 x 57.5 in (112 x 145.5 cm). Image courtesy the artist.

Jamie Lee has played around with different media and formats, embracing painting with the same ease with which she embraces drawing and sculpture. At first sight, what appears to be a static painting, melts, molds and glides once it has completely revealed itself.

Her composite paintings seamlessly incorporate disparate elements like airbrushed acrylics, marking pens, gel media, tinted inks, multi-coloured pieces of cut-and-pasted paper, and also novel materials such as glitter, fabric paint, thread, and saturated dyes.

Jamie M. Lee, ‘I Still Believe in Miracles’, 2014, acrylic and mixed media on canvas, 21 x 18 in (53 x 41 cm). Image courtesy the artist.

In incorporating diverse media, Lee’s works take on a complexity that gives her work both structural integrity and poetic overtones. According to the artist,

Combining traditional and non-traditional materials leads to the creation of something I never imagined. The use of texture, space, color, and linear elements form a visual vocabulary. Spatial complexity and an expanded repertoire of materials increase my expressive capacity. Using these allows me to organize space in ways that convey my ideas and emotions more effectively. It also energizes my surfaces by inviting viewers’ eyes to travel over them in various ways.

Jamie M. Lee, “Summer Shower”, 2016, installation view (detail) at The Glass Box. Image courtesy the artist and Bongsan Cultural Center.

This exhibition was conceptualised as a matter of chance, when Lee witnessed the theatrical display of downpours of the summer showers during a residency near Chicago. This was interspersed with spells of radiant sunshine and clear skies, which would bring out the resplendence of nature. The artist continues:

That sight reminded me of our own lives. Like the world shining brighter after a harsh storm passes by, in our lives, as in my own life, perhaps we’ll be able to smile brighter after hard times pass.

Using a 150 centimetres by 20 metres roll of paper, the artist endeavoured to visualise the present, into which she incorporated nature. Eventually the conceptualised work grew, utilising 150 centimetres by 100 metres of paper in the current ongoing exhibition, which was first exhibited in March in Seoul.

Jamie M. Lee, “Summer Shower”, 2016, installation view at The Glass Box. Image courtesy the artist and Bongsan Cultural Center.

This exhibition amalgamates personal memories and visions through abstract and rich visualisations. Lee’s forms are organic and are achieved by bunching together radial patterns like petals and other natural shapes. These are juxtaposed with sharp geometric lines and shapes, which help to impart a sense of tension and release to her work. Like her previous works, this exhibition too has a sense of ease, which is achieved through a spontaneous working method. Lee does not use preparatory sketches, or preconceived designs; instead she is a firm believer of intuition in the creative process.

Jamie M. Lee, “Summer Shower”, 2016, installation view (detail) at The Glass Box. Image courtesy the artist and Bongsan Cultural Center.

For Lee, the process of creating this work is an “act of immersion”, a cathartic reaction to the energy and rhythm of the summer shower. Her method involves cut drawing, wherein using a knife she cuts the paper in a manner akin to drawing. The work serves as personal reminder of her self-existence in a personal journey. The curator of the Bongsan Cultural Center Jung Jong-Ku writes in the exhibition introduction:

This “act of immersion,” which I think provides a joy of liberation from primal human insecurity and isolation, is impromptu and intuitive, and the continuous and repetitive “cut-drawing” act leaves shapes of what could be flower petals or seeds overlapping one on top of another, or radial lines of “empty space” as well as supporting lines of regular thickness as if to symbolize the growth of a living organism.

Entirely hand cut, the bits of paper are carefully attached to form symbolic bonds in space. It is etched in space, and is connected through specific instances of time. The work is the labour of love, a tiringly physical manifestation, which grounds both memory and imaginary thought.

Jamie M. Lee, “Summer Shower”, 2016, installation view at The Glass Box. Image courtesy the artist and Bongsan Cultural Center.

The location, the Glass Box, consists of a glass room, which through its transparent walls blurs the distinction between the interior and exterior. It thus enables the surroundings to become a part of the work and eliminates distinction between art and life. The paper installation appears to embrace dichotomy and both fills and empties the space simultaneously.

In the daytime, sunlight streams into the room, creating shifting shadows that alter through the course of the day, depending on the position of the sun. The light-and-shadow-play becomes an inseparable part of the work. The fragility of the work is exaggerated by the structured delicacy of the paper installation. With the slightest stimulus, the paperwork sways and looms, reminiscent of a shower in the month of August.

Jamie M. Lee, “Summer Shower”, 2016, installation view (detail) at The Glass Box. Image courtesy the artist and Bongsan Cultural Center.

Lee’s exhibition thrives on human interaction, which has a crucial role to play in the reception of the exhibition. The cut out void space reflects the ancient wisdom according to which to empty out is to fill. The exhibition encourages interpersonal meetings and creates a space that enables mutual bonding and sympathetic approaches. Jung Jong-Ku writes:

“Summer Shower,” which stands before us, is a play at drawing while referring to the existence and nonexistence of self and the world, and the act of repeating that physical memory is the artist’s psychological fantasy as well as the enacting “event” of reconstructing this pictorial scene. What she is trying to discuss is the happiness, the pleasure that comes with joy, and pure acts themselves which have become concealed or eliminated by reason and conceptual interpretation.

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