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A Memory’s Journey

2021, Noblesse Collection


Having worked with subjects like “healing” and “remembrance,” Lee Sungmi’s latest exhibition titled “A memory’s journey” shows us her process of cleansing the residual sentiments of her memories.

The exhibition begins with a scene that reminds us of a paper plane flying across the blue sky. “Unfolding” is a part of the artist’s series about unfolding the memories that one has folded up and put away. The origami paper plane shapes are made not with paper but with galvanized iron sheets that are covered with layers of white resin. The work is installed by the gallery’s window showing the outside sky, making it appear as if the work is flying by delivering its message into the gallery.

If you follow the gaze that “Unfolding” points to, you are met with “Sculpture of the day”. The artist has filled the gallery’s main wall with a relief work consisting of half-sphere shaped plexiglass with its cross-section dyed. Although it’s a sculpture from certain angles it takes the appearance of a drawing and depending on the angles of the plexiglass and its shadows a variety of concentric circles are formed. The artist completed her work as if she was recording her daily emotions, and the similar yet different expressions of the resulting work seem to point to the many emotions that cross each other even in the repetitive mundane life. Each work is given a unique identification code(coordinate) taken from a phone number or an address. It may be impossible to quantify emotion but the location where the emotion was felt can be specified. And when these locations are visited, the memories attached to those locations are often recalled. Hence the work “Sculpture of the day” is like reading the artist’s travel records of visiting the different times and locations within her memories.

In front of “Sculpture of the day”, stands the work “Fading Memory.” It is made with broken glass pieces which is the artist’s signature style. While studying in Baltimore, one late night the artist came across some shattered glass pieces at what appeared to be a crime scene. Lee found that, just as in life, something that appeared to be quite strong can be shattered with relatively small force and began working on discovering the route to hope in the midst of broken rubble. The way she works – collecting broken glass pieces, washing and sorting them before re-assembling them into new shapes – is called “Process Art.” In this exhibition, broken glass pieces from furniture damaged during shipping was repurposed. Objects that were ordered online and returned without having settled anywhere particular feel as if they’ve never existed in the first place. While accidents happen in an instant, the impact of that instant remains in the broken pieces. Those pieces are utilized by the artist to express the state in which something exists with its own stories yet without a specific destination.

The exhibition ends with the series “Internal Landscape”. This work consists of plexiglass with soot from incense, which seems to capture the incense’s moment of cleansing, inviting the viewer to withdraw into their memories. Incense not only cleanses the mind, but holds the power to take one back to where they first smelled it. Just as we take a polaroid in order to capture a specific moment, the artist captures the afterimage of a memory on the translucent surface of the plexiglass.

The global pandemic has forced the individual to detach from the collective and focus more on their inner selves. This has given the artist more time to focus on herself, and in turn has influenced her work’s scale and process. The new works presented in this exhibition appear a little lighter at first but holds layers of deeper emotions. We invite everyone to redirect our gaze from the outside world and go on a journey to our inner selves.

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