Stacking the Time of Memory


Focusing on an abstract topic concerning the "time of memory," which exists on the border of consciousness and unconsciousness, SangEun Lee has carried out her work persistently for a long period of time since she went to study in the United States in 1992 until now.


Memory is an obscure world of unconsciousness, increasingly so as it becomes deeper, but it is a very private, secret and precise image of oneself as well. The long journey in search of the memory of time inside her is the work process of SangEun Lee, and the result of this work sometimes appears as the lines of a strict and calculated minimalist, armed with logic, and sometimes feels like the sensuous lines of abstract expressionism, which reveals the artist's emotions through gentle abstraction.


Diverse forms of art covering areas of two-dimensional, three-dimensional and installation are created by the overlapped and accumulated lines, which include painterly lines with warm touches of the hand, dry and mechanical lines made by digital computers, and ambiguous lines that seem to use a mixture of the above. This is a result of the artist's aggressive and active will to overcome the limits of painting, and dismantle the boundaries of painting.


However, considering the words in the artist's notes that refer to the repetitive lines as "something that is not revealed easily as it is hidden by each layer of time and memories accumulated, but something that exists with integrity somewhere in the depths," it seems that the important concept for the work is the psychological state of the artist, who cannot help drawing endless repetitive lines, rather than the interpretation of the line as expressed material or as image.


Meanwhile, while the artist gains psychological leeway through such repetitive behavior, she builds up tension in the picture-plane by using a kitsch palette of colors. It seems as if the unfortunate fate of humans, who exist as limited beings in infinite space, is sublimated into the aesthetics and contradiction and obscurity. The colors are those of kitsch, which can often be seen in the advertisements of video media. The composition of complementary colors such as purple and yellow, or orange and light green, combined with neutralizing grey appears to be the result of the personal history of the artist, who studied diverse areas including traditional drawing, painting, printmaking and video media.


According to the artist, she wanted to "express the time or moment of now, which exists as a single layer, among the time that consists of numerous encounters and impacts." I believe the concept of time the artist intends to achieve through her work are the fragmented moments of the past and present overlapping behind the splendor of the present, the stacked-up layers of memories, and those lines of memory.




Curator of National Museum of Contemporary Art. Jiho Lee 2009