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Figures in the painting of Lee Sang-won are our painted group as a distance view as ever.This attitude is often used not for a description of his own sentiment but an objectification of human cultural assets, like Hieronymous Bosch, Uccello or Bruegel in the past. A human being is objectified solely for expression of the fear of war and starvation, of a satire and a precept, or overlooking for men. In another way, men is placed emphasis as a king or authorities in the middle of plate to endow them with mental images and sentimentalism as well as the spotlight of romantic theatricality. Therefore, I think of it now that Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Durer and Raphael couldn’t help being more popular than Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Bruegel.
To ask a question of Lee Sang-won why he has to take the way of former instead of the latter’s, is the best way to understand of his painting, in spite of that the latter is better way to survive in the tendency of commercialism now. Lee’s narrativedeparture is to inquire for the meaning or value of this era. The first question is that nobody is curious about history, ideal or ideology. This trial withquestions is very severe process to understand both myself and the context of surroundings of oneself. That is the so called Big "I". Big "I" as ‘Idea’ or ‘Ideology’ became bygones of reality and romanticism. On the other hand, people in the present live as a life of small "i". We try to find ‘i’nformation in ‘i’nternet to appease and live in music of i-pod or, in images free ourselves from the Idea. Consequently, we find our biggest satisfaction not from our work but our life-style. Two wheels of the wagon of this life are time and hobby. Because the power of the wagon is definitely financial power, everyone gives vent to their energy to get it. Sangwon Lee is almost the first artist to take ‘life-style’ as new landscape for art genre in Korea. What is the chic and wealthy life rather than the life worth and valuable life is appealto everyone now. However, this term was started by the artist’s tongue.

Let’s schematize to understand this ‘life-style’. ‘Art’ was very limited. The term of ‘Culture’ was more universal. The domain of Culture means that of semantics and, it is effort as a hypothetical form to make this world more meaningful. ‘Art’ and ‘ritual’were main axis. Furthermore, these were so called, ‘resistant’ against the fear of death or tragedy. Science was a means to unify for nature and religion was a chase to combine various cultures each periods. Religion never accepted the objection which tried to spoil the unity. Since then, Auschwitz and imperialism in the West society and Asia incapacitated their own religions. They did not recognize the culture in religion anymore and they destroyed the criterion and modality. This new trial was called Modernism. Modernism reveled against the bourgeoisie and it was same with the creative slogan in the West and Asia in the 20th century. The criterion as a subject matter can be summarized three features. One is rebounding from the standard of bourgeoisie, and the second one is destruction of psychological distance in terms of style, the last one is pursuit for media itself rather than depth and form. Bourgeois criterion is the category of Roman Art based on predominant Hellenic(Greek) civilization. In addition to, the style consists on context and form, which dramatize every Art aestheticallybased on common sense of this criterion. Logically, psychological distance occurs between common senses and we need time to think and study. Oriental culture also, was from the process of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism, so it is similar with the process of Western culture. The irony of the victory of Modernism was caused by the authorities’ acceptance for what it is it’s worth. The sovereign, speaking gently, the elite could not afford to make their new thought. However, they get their own back on Modernism. It does not mean the better thought or better style of Art. They achieved by cramming the economicaland commercial hall with Modernism. "life-style" was to live without care a rush for rules and to live with absence of worldly desires like Modernists. This attitude was disseminated throughout the young artists, they developed newly and dramatically with two extreme way of riding or opposition. To step back from others means that. Additionally, the only way not to be alone is to make economic power. This social aspect makes people strange, even artists.
We have believed and studied the term of Post-Modernism. However, nobody knows about whether or not it is real something. It may be incoherence of a counteroffensive and re-counteroffensive. It has been nothing but the permeation of ‘globalization (globalism)’into the culture world, which is praise of a free economy. Like "The stock exchange is a poor substitute for the Holy Grail"by the economist Joseph Alois Shumpeter, every ideology and emblem flows into the monster, named ‘Economy’and, ideology and belief are also displaced with the monster. The topic of art is also economic word, ‘globalism’. It cannot be said Modernism or Post Modernism. Even aestheticvalue and criterion do not have their birth place. There are only the stock options. Because of that art market was unified. Actually, in terms of art, the problem of form and subject reveal their limitation. Niklas Luhmann, a progressive socialist, also stipulates Art as an accomplishment of communication in the dual code which is ‘beautiful’or not ‘beautiful’. It means that classic value like the Goethe’s time is not in common anymore. Now, we just follow our taste.

Once art becomes autonomous, the emphasis shifts from hetero-reference to self-reference –which isnot the same as self-isolation, not l’art pour l’art. Art has no ambition to redeem society by exercising aesthetic control over an expanded realm of possibility…. The function of art is to make the world appear within the world.

Definitely, Lee Sang-won did not keep in mind when he worked. I just hoped to share with his viewers the joy from his paintings which is good suggestion for social circumstances and the meaning of Art today.
Lee is totally free and different from the three notorieties which are attachment for media, counteraction /re-counteraction for the elite and self-control of direct appeal by the elimination of psychological distance. At the same time, he meditates contemporary life-style. We do not need to think and question for each other at the mountain, sea, swimming pool, a ski resort.It might be a new peaceful world that former generation dreamed, but Lee produced the shadow of monster, ‘globalism’.
It may just me but I read about Sang-won’s concern that he is becoming exhausted by the intergradation toward isolation from ‘I’ to ‘i’ and form ‘E’of Ego to ‘e’ of ‘e-money’, ‘e-capital’ and ‘economy’. Generally, a long distance point of view and small painted people in paintings make me think about something a lot. Always the painting of Hieronymous Bosch has been read for that it is the warning of God and he is an admirer for Devil. Pieter Bruegel’s works interpreted to two possibilities which are a satire on human society and the ridicule for the divine right of kings. The battle pieces of Uccello havedouble read on the fear of war and the description for the king as the god of war. Like these durable reading, I also think about the peaceful and cheerful scene as well as the affliction of more intensive next generation at the same time.

By Lee Jin-myung / Aesthetics, Curator, Art Schola Shanghai

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