Fan Mail: Lee Yujin

For this edition of Fan Mail, Berlin-based artist Lee Yujin has been selected from a group of worthy submissions. If you would like to be considered, please submit to a link to your website with ‘Fan Mail’ in the subject line. One artist is featured each month—the next one could be you!

Fire has always mesmerized me; as a child, I was frequently chastised for playing with matches and open flames. Until last winter, when I came upon a burning apartment building, my experience was limited to these tame interactions. Within moments, the flames engulfed the structure, sending giant plumes of orange and yellow and black smoke into the night sky. The scene led me to pause with a combination of horror and awe.

Over the past two years Lee Yujin has produced sumptuous drawings that examine the tension between the beauty and violence of smoke. In Cloud Series – the first body of work to investigate this subject matter – she isolates found images of bombs and explosions, divorcing these potent indicators of turmoil and violence from their original contexts. While these works in pencil present smoke as a static phenomenon, the dynamism of Lee’s meticulous mark-making breathes energy into these forms.

Lee Yujin. “Volcano Eruption 2." Pencil on Paper. 110 x 218 cm. 2010. Courtesy of the Artist.

Lee Yujin. Detail from “Volcano Eruption 2." Pencil on Paper. 110 x 218 cm. 2010. Courtesy of the Artist.

When viewed from the perspective of form and shape, these drawings reveal themselves as arresting abstractions. I was immediately reminded of Alfred Stieglitz’s Equivalents, a series of small-scale, black and white photographs of cloud-filled skies. Stieglitz viewed these photographs as “vision[s] of life,” a visual “equivalent” for human experience. Lee views smoke in much the same way. She explains, “there is something beautiful about smoke because it is something we cannot take control over. It is intangible and ephemeral. Its shape is unexpected and transformable. In this sense, ‘smoke clouds’ can be an allegory for life…”

Lee Yujin. "I am a Telescopic Viewer, You are a Telescopic Viewer, We are Telescopic Viewers (Telescope Series)." A series of 100 drawings; each drawing with frame 43 x 43 cm. Charcoal and conte on paper. 2011. Courtesy of the Artist.

While these pencil drawings are particularly notable for their incredible precision, her most recent series, I am a Telescopic Viewer, You are a Telescopic Viewer, We are Telescopic Viewers, approaches the subject with a more fluid gesture, using charcoal and conte to produce drawings that introduce color. The quietude of her earlier drawings is in stark contrast to these new works which, when exhibited en masse, allude far more evidently to the violence underlying these images.

Lee was included in several solo and group exhibitions in Berlin in 2011, including “One Night Stand” at Kims Bar, “Benumbed” at Takt Kunstprojektraum, and “We Can Start a Process” at Kreuzberg Pavilion. You can stay apprised of her upcoming projects through her website.