Seemingly Rough but Delicate
Pavel-to-DMZ place 5. Raw Gallery X Seahyun Lee Studio
I visited Low Gallery in Paju Book City. I was waiting for artist Seahyun Lee in front of the sign, where the word “RAW” was written as if spray-painted on. Though I thought he would be a raw person, what I found was a completely different person from what I had thought. He welcomed us like a friend.
The space for exhibits comes into view as soon as you enter. He said that he sometimes holds planned exhibits there, or displays his work there. After passing by that place, we came to the studio. What came to my attention first was of course, the work in progress. The red landscape, which began from the artists view of the DMZ’s landscape during his time in the army through night goggles, was giving off a powerful aura from different sized canvases. Though I dislike being limited to the stereotype that red equals intensity, for artist Seahyun Lee’s red works, the adjective fits extremely well. Was it because it was red? Or is it the effect of the landscape painting? Thinking of this while looking at the work, I was able to see little details that were hidden all over the place. In the scenery painting in the form of a landscape painting, the universe was collaged in it, like how the artist said. From the expression of emotions in the form of clouds, to the Sewol Ferry.
After passing by the studio where the work actually takes place, we arrived at a room which seemed to be for resting. Interesting things were scattered everywhere. cabinet inlaid with mother-of-pearl and a piece of china, sculptures, and illegible photos that seemed to be for artwork lining the walls neatly. Out of the photos, there were those that were dangling off the walls, as if the tape’s stickiness had worn off. It was a place filled with the trace of the artist and his disposition, displayed in a somewhat cluttered way. Following artist Seahyun Lee to the roof, I looked back and forth upon North Korea and Seoul, which could be seen in the distance.
. One cannot understand the artist’s artwork perfectly through a short visit. However, the artist who viewed the DMZ through a fluoroscope. And we who are looking at the DMZ reinterpreted through the artist. The thought came to me that talking about the DMZ, which we cannot go to, face-to-face is a conversation that reflects the current age.
We will introduce Raw Gallery X Seahyun Lee’s studio as the fifth place of pavel-to-DMZ, thinking that you can experience the reinterpreted DMZ through the eyes of an artist living through the modern age through his work. Since it is a place where individual work is conducted, we ask you to make arrangements in advance before visiting.
41–3 Hoedong-gil, Paju-si, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea / +82 (0)10 4939 1080 (artist’s phone number)
<Interview with Saehyun Lee, the artist and host of the place>
Interview space : Raw Gallery X Seahyun Lee Studio / Interview start time : pm 2:35, 24 Aug 2020 / Age group : 50’s / Home Country : Republic of Korea
How do you describe yourself in this space?
A Person who Enjoys their Daily Life
I always enjoy my daily life in this place. I wander around, doing something, and sometimes take a rest. This is a place where I start my day as well as start and finish every one of my works.
To talk about this space, this is also a place where I am able to meet a lot of new people. Most of the new people I meet are people who work in the art field. They want to see my work, and are curious about my studio. Due to this, a lot of people come to visit my studio. Also, I use this place to plan other artists’ exhibits, and not only my creativity but also other young artists creativity, as well as new creativity though meeting them is born here.
Looking back on this, I think I can describe this place in three ways. The place of my daily life, the place of meetings, and the place of creativity.
How do you describe your everyday life in this space?
Habits and the urge to break the habit, these two things are intertwined.
Habits are an important factor in our daily lives. We have to do something continually, and a habit plays a big part. Habit is the basis of creation, and the thing that holds our daily life together. However, in the creator’s view, the spontaneous moment of one’s own, over that of habit, is extremely important. These two actions act as a centripetal force and centrifugal force in our daily lives. This place can be a place where these two things come together.
How do you describe the character of this space?
This is a place that is Janus-like, seemingly orderly but always not orderly, like my heart. My personality is the same. I am a kind person who gets along with people, but on the other hand, I am a bad person. I put my other personality into my work as well. Though it seems extremely tidy, when you look at it closely, there is a lot of dust and is cluttered.
How do you describe the mood of this space?
Though there are finished works here, there are photos and things that give me inspiration on the things I am envisioning, making it a riddle-like place. Like the pleasure that comes from traveling to an unknown place, you can find enjoyment in the things that are hidden precariously in every nook and cranny, over what can be immediately seen.
An interesting person you communicate with in this space?
To name one person, the actor Cho Yeo Jeong.
She contacted me, after seeing my work and liking it. She contacted me herself and came her on appointment, without saying who she was. First of all, she was very interested in my work. When talking about the mindset as an actor, passion for films, and the mindset as an artist, I thought that to succeed, one must take care of themselves this well.
What is the word that describes you, looking at the DMZ?
DMZ is the source of artwork. Since it started from the scenery of the DMZ.
Actually, the reason why I got a studio in Paju Book City is because of the DMZ. Of course, many factors went into consideration, but the biggest reason was because Paju is very close to the DMZ, and you can even see North Korea from the rooftop. Many people working in the field of art came to the studio, and as I explained about my paintings, we came to talk about the scenery of the DMZ, and we would go up to the rooftop to show them that that is North Korea. Though we think about how North Korea, and the DMZ affects our lives, we do not think about the fact that the DMZ is so close to us. This is very important. In one point of the rooftop, you can see Yeouido, Seoul, and on the other side, you can see North Korea. This is extremely ironic. This studio makes people feel that our daily life is not far from the division of Korea.
What type of people are interested in your works? Do you know why?
My work began from the landscape painting of artist Gyeomjae, and the structure is similar to the scenery in the Eastern and Korean paintings that we have seen since we were a child. tried to capture our lives today, the pain we are feeling, the beauty of Korea’s nature right now, or the perspective of Koreans and other parts of the universe in my work, without being isolated or regressive. Though culturally, I am not a nationalist, people who think the revival of the nation’s art, creativity, and one having their own, strong identity is important like my work.
Do you have any opinion toward the North Korean art?
Actually, art is an act done at a specific time. For example, Impressionism, Modernism, America’s Informal and Pop-Art, these things are all art that started at a particular time in the West. For China, the age of the Chinese Communist Party, for the Soviets, the age of the Soviet Union, and for Russia, a particular age certainly exists. Though they may fight over each other’s form of government according to their ideology, this itself cannot be erased from history. I am saying that we cannot deny the fact that it existed. Though it is not mainstream, the artistic acts that humans living in a particular era and region, or made by propaganda or by individuals, nonetheless, North Korean art is important since it was made by the central perspective of the age. Instead of denying North Korean art because I am South Korean, and my country is in conflict with the North, we have to acknowledge that it existed at some point. And we must keep and preserve it. Only then can art become diversified and more abundant.
Personally, I think it would be great if Paju actively introduces North Korean art. Though we may wonder what is the purpose of this at present, after time passes, we will definitely think it is a valuable cultural and historical data. Even though I will be dead and gone, a certain period will remain, and last forever.
Interview end time : pm 3:05, 24 Aug 2020