The creative matter of a South Korean artist
Here is a South Korean artist who lives in France. He found a workshop in an abandoned factory in Vincennes. While there is a first monograph on his work, Lee Jin Woo welcomes us. An incursion in the Land of Morning calm ...
Meeting with a visual artist whose works, seemingly abstract, are actually shouting reality. After a sometimes chaotic journey, the South Korean Jin Woo humbly continues her work, today highlighted by a gallerist from the Marais.
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"One foot in Asia, the other in Vincennes"
The building seems abandoned. We climb several floors, we borrow many cages of stairs, endless frozen corridors with tagged walls, to finally reach the workshop of the Korean Lee Jin Woo. Here we are in another world, a parenthesis of poetry, of slowness, of silence. One foot in Asia, the other in Vincennes. To thank us for coming, the master will offer us a tea, infinitely rare, grown in the settings of the Country of the Morning calm. It should be tasted to detect the amazing flavors.
Lee Jin Woo, serene, in his studio. The works in progress, large formats, occupy the walls and tables. A light that comes from the outside, filtered by frosted windows, makes them vibrate
The impression of peace in Lee Jin Woo's studio comes, in part, from this monochrome. Depending on whether the charcoal is pounded more or less fine, the tones of the work go from light to dark. Gradients of white, gray, black ...
The paper "hanji" as a support for the creation of the artist
The works of Lee Jin Woo ask to be contemplated. They seem abstract? However, to look at them well, the eye discerns a form, enclosed in the composition, a foliage, a calligraphy, a landscape under the rising moon ... The artist expresses himself on paper hanji, from the mulberry tree and traditionally made at home, translucent material, fragile in appearance but is resistant enough to serve as windows in Korean homes. The artist superimposes several sheets, up to six, between which he introduces pigments, charcoal and other organic materials. The surface, then, solidifies, becomes so rough that it can rub it, scrape it, brush it, for days, to bring it a relief and the desired texture. A repetitive, exhausting task that requires time but, through obstinacy, evokes meditation. The bodily experience, the gesture that makes it possible to reach a spirituality. " God is watching us", says the Korean, Protestant obedience,"inside oneself, one can not cheat. "
Sheets of hanji paper, extracted from mulberry fibers and made in Korea, or paper-cloth, which support the work of the artist
Pieces of charcoal waiting to be crushed and integrated into the works giving them a third dimension
His brooms and brushes, the Korean reports from his travels to Istanbul, Palermo, Beijing ...
An artistic career fraught with pitfalls
Teenager, Lee Jin Woo already guessed his path. " If I do not go to art, I will die!", he said as an ultimatum to his parents, and from his first artistic apprenticeship in Seoul, he keeps a bad memory."The teachers intervened on my drawing over my shoulder, it was unbearableHe feels the need of other horizons, a freedom, the USA, he is angry with materialism, the young man arrives in our capital, a half-empty suitcase, gibbering a few incomprehensible words of French, with the idea of buy a tent to sleep in the street The lean season begins. " A paid job would have prevented me from creating. Being malnourished, I was so tired that I could only work sitting; also, I drew, I never stopped drawing. "
Our artist still fills entire pages of calligraphy. Jin Woo (it's his first name) is attending the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris as a free candidate, where he is noticed by a teacher, Abraham Pincas. " He was my ambassadorSoon, he will meet another: Maria Lund, enthusiastic gallerist, Danish installed in the Marais, who defends him both in Europe and the Far East.The artist came out of the shadows.A monograph appears on him these days while one of his works, offered by a collector, joined the museum Cernuschi.The artist is not less humble and recalls: " I am an ordinary man. Art alone is important. "
The composition is made of several layers, the artist will create a relief by rubbing the surface, tirelessly with a wire brush. Then, he gives a sweep to drive away the dust
A painting made of hanji paper, pigments and charcoal, to which Lee Jin Woo will not give a title to offer to the imagination of the viewer
The design of a foliage can be perceived in transparency, imprisoned in the thickness of the layers of paper
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Lee Jin Woo Philippe Filliot and Helena Staub, Actes Sud, 224 pp., 39 euros.