Accordingly, in ‘double-sided’, a solo exhibition by Korean-American artist Timothy Hyunsoo Lee, the artist doubles himself as a multiplicity of ghost identities, transitions and throughways. The early experience of immigration and psychological disorder, placed Lee in a privileged position of radical otherness. Using paper as his primary medium and metaphor, Lee's world appears elastic and volatile, almost at breaking point, yet mysteriously at rest.
The artist draws on his own traumatic experience of anxiety and panic disorders as a child, which then translated into his work as a site of reconstruction: the missed encounter with the real at the heart of trauma can only be explored through repetition and surveying. Expanding his psyche as an abstract territory, Lee maps out cartographies and topologies onto large-scale watercolors which operate as both
surface and object. The traditional inertia of classical painting is abandoned for the sake of a sensorial experience engaging all manners of motion and bending, and splitting the gravity of space into an open field of impressions and traces. Beyond the rigid impositions of conceptual art, Lee turns away from reductionism, liberating expression from description.
His expressiveness however is not unbound but meticulous. The painted diamond-like cells, basic unit of his grammar, is a reference to the visual culture of cytohistology - the study of cells and tissues,
which maps out mental illness not as a psycho-social condition but as a psycho-biological singularity. The works in the exhibition, loyal to the topological nature of Lee's practice are not a seamless units but a surface in constant growth: spanning between 2012 and 2014, the early and more sculptural works such as Gookeyes (2012) explore the racial politics of Asians in America, with particular regard to the invisibility imposed on migrant communities: asian eyes are hidden behind white paper, turning our gaze toward a metaphor for rejection and superfluousness.
The subtler, folded sculptural forms deployed in 296.61 (2013) and Halo (2013), belongING to the series 'Traces', are based on paintings of traditional Korean spirit masks, investigating identity and representation.
How to appear in the world with dual identities? A bearer of conflict? A sufferer of illness? The suffering subject is barely visible or audible. This ghostly presence, however, is synonymous with porosity: the ability to translate and cross-pollinate. In the large watercolor 300.2 (2013) from the same series, a more polymorphous surface begins to appear, attesting to Lee's engagement with the spirituality of Kandinsky, and the outreach for the 'other self', finding solace in the purity of color and line, and dwelling on his own double-entendre; at a precarious threshold between moderation and madness. In the most recent works, from the 2014 series 'Impressions', Composition II and 296.35 the artist has internalized his 'other self', in order to create ever more complex structures, simultaneously abstract and intimate - an architecture of the mind. The sculptures Mother's Craft and Mugunghwa ground the exhibition with a stronger gravitational imposed on migrant communities: asian eyes are hidden behind white paper, turning our gaze toward a metaphor for rejection and superfluousness.
In the most recent works, from the 2014 series 'Impressions', Composition II and 296.35 the artist has internalized his 'other self', in order to create ever more complex structures, simultaneously abstract and intimate - an architecture of the mind. The sculptures Mother's Craft and Mugunghwa ground the exhibition with a stronger gravitational pull, and materialize his new abstract language into voluminous form.
There's no double without devouring, writes Sarah Kofman, without cutting into what, without it, might have passed for a full, self-sufficient presence. The double disfigures the original, disturbs the order between the real world and the presence of art: "Art upsets the opposition between these two worlds, causes each to slip into the other.
About the artist
Timothy Hyunsoo Lee (born 1990, South Korea), is an emerging Korean-American artist working in Brooklyn, New York, USA. His love for drawing began as a child, but his decision to pursue art professionally happened during his last year as a Biology, Drawing, and Neuroscience major at Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT). Drawn to the studio, and the creative process of making art, Timothy withdrew
his ambitions of attending medical school and rented a studio in Williamsburg upon graduation, where he currently works.
Hyunsoo Lee’s works are inspired by themes of social stigma, identity, psychological disorders, and more recently, of spirituality and religion. He explores these themes through a novel vector – paintings and sculptures consisting largely of cell-like marks that vary in size, color, and saturation. His works are seen as ethereal and delicate, but the extremely labor-intensive compositions, marked by intensely obsessive repetitions, quickly betray that initial perception. Exploring his own history of anxiety disorders through his art, Timothy confronts and manipulates his tics and compulsions and channels them into his works. In responding to his anxiety with art, he has developed a novel system of mind-mapping – “a cartography of his psychopathology” – to study a part of himself that initially drew him to study developmental biology and neuroscience in college.
The artist works almost exclusively in watercolour and gouache, and prefers this medium over other paints and marking systems due to watercolor’s unstable nature. Mastering watercolor primarily involves understanding the pigment’s interaction with water, and the solution’s interaction with its surface, and every application of paint will result in a different mark. Thus, watercolor prevents him from “fussing” over trivial details in his works.
Timothy Hyunsoo Lee is the recipient of the 3rd International Emerging Artist Award in 2014, which earned him a 2-year representation by Sabrina Amrani. The artist has been awarded by the Alliance of Young Artists & Writers, the National Young Arts Foundation and the VSA Emerging Young Artists Program, and was longlisted for the Aesthetica Art Prize.
Sabrina Amrani will be showcasing Timothy Hyunsoo Lee's work with a solo presentation in Art Stage Singapore (January 2015) and a duo show in ARCOmadrid (February 2015).
29 October 2014, 7 p.m.