The Trace of inevitability out of coincidence, infinite possibility out of limitations
Artist Sang Yong Lee is a rare artist who is familiar with all genres of art including painting, sculpture, installation and photography. He does not rely on emotions or impulsive feelings. He focuses on detailed meaning of the storytelling. His interests lie in history, folk studies, anthropology, sociology, classic physics, Eastern philosophy and among others. He is well versed in different scriptures. What an artist wants to know is ultimately not what art is. An artist wants to find out who we are, where we are from and where we are going. In other words, artist’s interest is about us, the human beings. He wants to talk about our space, our time and our free will, volition that has made a certain decision, a narration made of fourth dimensional fate that is never ending. The difference is it is not made of words but with vision and texture.
People who know the artist Sang Yong Lee agree on one thing. That he is an artist who engraves on inkstone. Inkstone is one of the ‘Four Precious Things of the Study (Munbangsawoo) ’ according to Confucianism and it has a slightly different nuance from the Western pen. The very first civilization drew and painted. In the beginning they could not distinguish between reality and imagination. In order to criticize the magical world, the letters have been invented. The letters developed from practical reasoning. And thus, the outlook on the world of science was formed from technological modern times. But the East used Chinese characters and Chinese characters have used pictures and letters as a system of unitary characters. Be sure to note that Chinese characters’ starting point was a dot that developed into a full character. Therefore, it did not emphasize the importance of positivism that signified practical reasoning as a way to connect with nature’s causal relationship. Rather, it admired the constancy of the harmony between all creations and we exist to belong to creations and this was something that we followed as a principle to live in this world. Harmony is a matter of courtesy and courtesy is an expression of inner working. Therefore, art to us is an outer courtesy with exposure of devotion of beauty of inner working. Art to us is an exposure of devotion that is not in the least strayed from the inner self.
Contrary to this, Western’s pen has an engraving character. Engraving not only has a meaning of recording but also gives individuality to the person. The origin of pen is from a Latin word stilus. From stilus came style. Western’s engraving culture resembles its history of moving away from generality of creation, thus, wholeness to individual character. Western art was a history of gods to nature, nature to human beings, human beings to concepts. Through this process of history, fighting and constant repetitions of reconciliations have taken place. While working in the U.S. Artist Sang Yong Lee realized this difference of cultures of the West and the East and he worked on to bringing harmony to these two different cultures. This unfolding is the backdrop of how he engraved mountains and moons to the inkstone. The inkstone contains the important factor of eastern culture and engraving represents historical western culture.
There is a more deeper meaning to Artist Sang Yong Lee engraving sun, moon (ilwolsungshin), river and mountain (kangsanchunha), to his inkstones. Ilwolsungshin refers to time and kangsanchunha refers to the whole space. The principal agent that engraves the two is the labor by the artist and the history of human beings. Artist Lee’s work represents wholeness from the scene of our lives. Arising takes place from the coincidence through the net of wholeness. This may be a coincidence but life can be inevitable.
Artist Lee engraves on an inkstone someone has used in the past. This engraving may be owned by someone else in the future. The inkstone was produced by someone who dug stone in the mountains and was used by different scholars in the past and after a very long time it was discovered by the artist. The stories of time and space have been engraved and become an artwork and ultimately it becomes a conversation to someone. That is the core behind Artist Lee’s title ‘Fate.’ All of our fate is coincidental but an act of drama if you look at it carefully. Artist Lee’s ‘Fate’ series is an artwork refined with humble and well-mannered poise. A person who has looked deeply into life’s meaning will appreciate life’s meticulous and profound meaning. And an artist’s artwork tells a story of wisdom that is based on his life-long experience which may seem refined and humble at times. It may seem like someone else’s story but at the end it is a story of our own.
Press written by Jin Myung Lee, Senior Curtor, Kansong Art Museum