In mid 70s Korea, a generation of artists broke with their artistic heritage, calling themselves the Dansaekhwa group, a Korean term for monochrome painting, initiating an exploration into the physical limitations of art’s materiality, connecting the viewer to the spiritual principles of Taoism, Confucianism and Buddhism. Lee Jin Woo, the son of an architect, is part of the next generation of artists. His work shares formal parallels with the movement, however, looking at matter by employing Hanji paper fixed on linen mixed with volcanic ash, resulting in objects at the border between painting and sculpture. The carbon in his work is compacted in transparent layers and forcefully dragged by a metallic brush through a strenuous and repetitive movement that creates rough and steep reliefs - interior landscapes of a sort. It is this process of subtraction that suggests a spirit of alchemy, a transformation of the object into abstraction, where his intention is to suppress our cognitive will to approach our inner 'I'. As with the black paintings of Ad Reinhard, a viewer’s eye must interact to perceive depth in the work, where with careful and prolonged looking, a kind of spirituality may be attained. Additionally, the artist’s intense physical labour itself negates formal intention in order to channel energy into the process of making intuitively. With all his works left untitled, artistic discipline becomes not a purpose in itself but a channel of meditation, creating an ambivalence between a contemplation and description.

 

Lee Jin Woo, born in 1959, Seoul, Korea, received a degree in Fine Arts from the University of Sejong, Korea, in 1983 as well as at the University of Paris VIII in 1986. He currently has his studio in Paris where he now lives and works. His work can be found in important collections around the world, with exhibitions in France, United Kingdom, South Korea, China and Japan.