Inland Crossing (2009)
The unifying core of Lee’s work is meditative gesture, a distinctive technique that accommodates two opposing energies: the meditative process, which is slow, deliberate, and akin to repetition, and gesture, which is painterly and spontaneous. In Inland Crossing, Lee focuses on the power of shape, asserting the desire for her work to become “more simple and bold” as “inspired by a concept of ‘freedom’ from the world” and from the artist’s own mind. This series highlights Lee’s personal and physical relationship with her work, which is alive with her signature meditative gesture. Yet, Lee’s large, square canvases do not simply record the artist’s movements in abstract expressionist fashion. Working with brushes and palette knives on carefully prepared ground, Lee interacts with her materials. Paint is applied in layers, as washes or opaque blocks. Expressive lines are formed with china markers, oil sticks and oil pencils. Inland Crossing showcases the artist’s Taoist balance of harmonies.
Hyunmee Lee’s work embraces the unity of opposites. Just as her own life melds East and West, the artist seeks to accommodate opposing energies in her work. For the Inland Island series, Lee drew upon her own artistic journeying, which spanned three continents over two decades. Drawing inspiration from the water-rich regions of Korea and Australia, to the majestic mountains of Utah, Lee’s work embraces the diversity of opposition. Works in this series juxtapose soft, tender shades of yellow against an otherwise monochromatic palette. Strong ebony shapes highlight the influence of Asian calligraphy, as well as the artist’s interest in the eastern concepts of emptiness and nothingness. Rather than representing death or pessimism, Lee’s use of black is more about the presence of light than its absence. She uses black to open a dimension outside of the physical world, a place of meditation where judgment is suspended so that the viewer can move to a realm of advancement. Within this dimension of opposition and harmony, ephemerality and tangibility, shapes, like the artist’s inspiration, become inland islands--place markers of journeying, evolution and discovery.