First meeting with an artist and a work. A work dominated by temporality given by the artist herself. In Soo Kyoung Lee’s paintings, everything begins with a monochrome surface designed to be coated with various elements, which are many organs conferring an existence upon her works.


“Ils ont regardé Matisse” was the premise of an exhibition held in 2009 at the Musée Matisse in Le Cateau- Cambrésis. It displayed the creations by Barnett Newman Soo Kyoung Lee is so interested in. On that occasion, she fully perceived the decorative power – in the positive sense of the word – in Matisse’s creations. In the process, she accepted her own pictorial ambivalence, her “natures mortes innommables” (unnameable still lives). However, Soo Kyoung Lee added a disruptive element to her compositions, which could have simply been seductive.

Yet, this element has recently disrupted the order defined by the artist so far, that is the organization of a pictorial space strictly determined by the frame of the painting. New realities appear to the viewer’s eye : they can be cut, they can even “come out” of the canvas, giving the whole work a new rhythm. The realities represented in the painting are multiplied severalfold. The elements play a different part according to the size of the work : if Soo Kyoung Lee decides to paint on large formats, the elements tend to “float” in the monochrome ; as soon as she chooses smaller formats, entanglements become so conspicuous that their presence inevitably catches the viewer’s eye. The recent triptych by Soo Kyoung Lee refers to another space she keeps cutting and manipulating.

The question of transparency, which was already obvious in her work, arises again. A question is followed by another, so that the viewer wonders in which direction to go. Instead of taking a necessary break after going through a very busy period, the artist prefers keeping on painting on small formats. She playfully explains these creations are “paintings for dummies” ; she also insists on the importance of that intermediate moment during which she has doubts about everything, including her very ability to paint. Painting on small formats enables her to indulge in experiments because nothing has been laid down, everything is allowed, not to mention that such a process functions a whole. These small formats can be compared to “laboratories” or many pages of a thought notebook. But what becomes of the drawing itself in all this ?


Shapes spread out on the white surface of the paper sheet, thus revealing Soo Kyoung Lee’s new thoughts, such as : “Le papier me donne ces sensations de familiarité, d’affection” (Paper gives me these feelings of intimacy and affection). Gradual shifts from monochrome to brushed effects, elements which disrupt and enliven the paintings, entanglements and superimpositions, rhythms which are reversed according to the formats chosen and the techniques used, represent the layers of this “something” we should take the time to see.

Based on the French text by Fanny Drugeon, April 2015.