In search of form and color Form and color are basic elements of painting. So many artists have been riveted by their extraordinary magnetism and performance. As is widely known, Paul Cezanne desperately struggled in his art with form and color. Novelist D. H. Lawrence defined a way of perceiving objects in Cezanne’s painting as “appleyness,” a term he coined. Cezanne perceived nature in the forms of cylinder, sphere, and cone, trying to express the color of nature wrapped up with light and air. He reached an intuitive, instinctive way of seeing through his lunatic obsession, excluding all clichés. In this sense, Cezanne’s apple is not a mere object as a banal still-life but a representation of the fundamental real. Alberto Giacometti was also filled with the same anguish. In Apple on the Sideboard (1937) Giacometti depicted a small apple in the form of a yellow sphere. Cezanne and Giacometti painfully pictured fundamental questions of form and color. As Cezanne was able to shatter his anguish when he died one century ago, Giacometti was emancipated from persistent agony when his life came to an end 50 years ago. Contemporary artists have taken up such agony and obsession. Such artists have consistently challenged such intrinsic agony of form and color and continuously tried to represent this visually, but they cannot gain solutions with ease. They probably just vacantly reiterate brush strokes to discover color and form others failed to find in the past. That is why artist Lee Kyung’s composed brush strokes appear shaken painfully. Emotions mixed with pure colorsAs Cezanne and Giacometti had long held obsessions with existential form, artist Lee Kyong has a paranoiac attitude toward color. This derives from a quite underlying question. Upon entering Multipurpose Art Hall EMU where Lee Kyong’s solo show Color as Adjective: Dark-Exciting, we are first stimulated by paint smell rather than by the spectrum of colors unfolded before our eyes. The artist calls for us to concentrate on visual communion in this space that is never neutral. 313 brush marks are rendered on 48 pieces of white drawing paper put on the wall of the venue and arranged in four lines in order. The artist explains she spent one and half years completing these drawings that seem to have three or four simple brush strokes. What the artist explains is of significance. Adjectives written in pencil such as ‘ambiguous,’ ‘vague,’ and ‘tired’; figures chronicling the time the drawings were drawn in 1/4 units, such as ‘12:1/2’ and ’15:1/4’; and figures giving information on opus and the year of production such as ‘1412’ are written like secret codes around the brush marks. They are Lee’s diary.
A special feeling recollects some tacit color in a moment of daily life. The artist dissolves colors so as not to miss this. She repeats mixing the colors and making brush strokes to come close to the unsubstantial colors that came to her mind. The colors undergo subtle change with time, and gain ‘complete’ names in a certain moment. The artist herself christens the color ideally reacting to her action, as litmus paper stained with reagent. The color named moves to another independent canvas and gains status as ‘color as adjective’. Lee uses a few important devices in this work. Monochrome painting similar to Kazimir Malevich’s “zero degree” of painting is pure and extremely faithful to color itself. Words sealedbreak down stable perspectives. Lee inserts letters cut by laser in a process of applying paints that perfectly resemble transient feelings that disappeared without leaving any trace. The artist represents adjectives expressing abstract, subjective feelings such as ‘delightful’ and ‘ambiguous’. The viewers’ eyes move between signifiers defined in color and language. In the Dark-Exciting series (2013) set at the center of the venue, Lee tries to fuse colors she found through momentary confidence. The artist fills the place where anonymous colors float and collide with ambiguous layers of paint. Lee uses duct tape to express such layers of paints. It is quite cumbersome to create sequent layers of paints. Whenever one layer of paint is rendered, paint is applied to a plane and left to dry after putting duct tape on a nearby plane. When the layers of paints are completed, colors intuitively chosen form a spectrum. Paint marks leave an uneven surface on the border generated by the detachment of the tape. A reiteration of a rupture that happens by chance seems to be “a missed encounter with the real” in the words of Jaques Lacan.
Lee is aware that color never gives any absolute confidence if mixed. Although she puts labels on colors, numbers them, and puts them in a frame, colors as uncertain “adjectives” hover over her scenes. As in My Love, My Seni encapsulating her firsthand experience of loss, it is also a paradox that color as a record of vivid emotion generates a rupture at the moment the color is fixed by brushwork.