Biennale 2003, Tokyo Note, January 2004
by Brent Hallard
Absorbed in the exact placing of thread, the lace maker of Vermeer's painting,
holds our breath. Hers is a world of precision and focus, a still air broken
only by deft fingers. Such is the hushed atmosphere within Celsius Smith Gallery
conductive to concentration on, From the Garden, an exhibition of
new works on paper by Ke-Sook Lee.
Personal iconography as translated inner dialogue can be evocatively informing,
or it can be confusing, even obscure. Yet, it this not the desired rapport with
which one might commune with the depths of the artist's persona. While Ke-Sook
garden does not contain a John Malkovichian tunnel, it is a confrontation with
an artistís intimate throughts as portrayed by symbols and icons telling of a
history, aspiration and growth.
Marked by chores and duty, women live out the endless routine with one day to clean, the next for ironing, or sewing, on and on, whatever the task. An historic pattern universally known by women, often proudly proclaimed and embroidered upon the towels, cases and fabrics of domestic life. It is on this ground the Ke-Sook Lee embellishes Portrait
of a Woman, a suite of seven works (a week a days) with vibrant and animated paintings of her daily image, a figure to refute the ordered obligation of prescribed life and ritual chore. The group concludes with an arranged cluster of crocheted doilies and pot holder,
Referential objects that transform into floral-like orbs in many other works exhibited.
At first look, subtlety of color tone, and delicacy of line belie the power of
Lee's vision. Hardly a bucolic field, each composition, whether of parts or singularly
framed, is a stratum, fertile with conceptual images to represent moments of
examination, phases of Change. Equally her use of various media, clay, ink, gesoo,
glitter, polymer, thread, endow procedure and alteration in the stages of each
layered work's realization.
The methodic stitching around these "journeys," "flowers," and "awakenings"
contrive a regularity of thread mark, perhaps less a perimeter and more that
of wise link between memory and potential in Awakening
in Her Garden, and resilient seams for the past and future in Journey.
Gardens can be complicated places, confounded by undergrowth, aggression, frailty,
just as nature can exude fragrance, strength, design and respite. The shapes
and forms that emerge from Ke-Sook Lee's field are private and compelling, and
effective balance for the viewer to contemplate.