Hyemin Lee (Korean artist)
Exhibit and Art Installation.
Clothes, Cotton on canvas
Hyemin Lee’s pillow installations can be discussed in terms of their historical background in the Chosun Dynasty.
By creating Kyubang pillows Lee speaks to Chosun Dynasty Confucianist beliefs while respecting some, and changing others to suit her vision of contemporary art. She does not make them out of silk as did her forebears but rather out of repurposed materials that in themselves have a rich Korean history. Furthermore, Lee is reimagining the past into new forms. By sewing her works out of pieces of used Korean clothing she makes small pillows out of which she creates her installations. These configurations can take various forms like the frieze for example that usually wraps around the central part of a room. Although the frieze design is attributed to the ancient Greeks, by using it, Lee combines eastern and western compositional designs. As the artist says in her statement “I use daily objects representative of forgotten traditions or memories from my personal history, to create works, reviving in them the once lost dreams and hopes. I sew together old pieces of fabric and clothes, mostly traditional Korean garments that have been abandoned, to make miniature pillows, or collects wooden pieces from worn-worn-out frames or cheap paper and cast them together into colorful sculptures. As I bring together everyday trivialities and traces of the past to restructure them in multiple layers into my own creations, I invite the audience to revisit and recollect their own past.”
Goryeo dynasty (918–1392)
Date: first half of the 14th century
Hanging scroll; ink and color on silk
The Water-moon Avalokiteshvara (Korean: Suwol gwaneum) is an iconographic type that was popular in Korea during the Goryeo period. She was worshipped for her ability to prevent calamities and diseases and to safeguard travelers on their journey. This painting shows the resplendently attired bodhisattva in three-quarter view, seated on a rocky outcropping above the waves. At the top is a diminutive moon, in which a hare pounds the elixir of immortality. At the bodhisattva’s feet, the dragon king leads a group of elegantly dressed miniature figures; behind them follow sea monsters bearing precious gifts. The boy pilgrim Sudhana (Korean: Seonjae dongja) stands at the lower right; his encounter with this deity, as recounted in the Avatamsaka (Flower Adornment) Sutra, provides the textual source for the scroll.
The delicate and splendid gold-painted design on the robes of the deities is a noteworthy trademark of Goryeo Buddhist painting. Another is that the pigments were applied to both the back and front of the semitransparent silk, intensifying their hues and luminosity, though some have faded over time due to light exposure.
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