Sun Ju Lee: Enfolded Surface
The Muse Gallery | 269 Portobello Rd | London W11 1LR | www.themuseat269.com
30 Nov – 24 Dec 2017
Opening Night 30.11, 6.30-9.00pm
Sun Ju Lee’s works compel us to move. Hundreds of monofilament wires wound around a frame glisten with shapes that emerge and disappear, promising, but never delivering, legible images. Back and forth we walk around, near and beside her works. Large scale drawings, screen prints and innovative glass works produce a similar effect and are often arranged in groups, unified by one title (for example, ‘Assembly Passage’). Together the works create scenes which encourage us to move from piece to piece, resisting a static relationship between viewer and work.
This evokes Lee’s own practice of research. During a residency in Brent, for example, the artist interviewed residents and passers-by, photographed spaces and walked through the rapidly changing urban area. She collated thousands of photographs, most often of shadows of people and objects, which she compiled together and merged in photoshop. The resultant images of strange dark masses were printed on monofilament wires, and the final work touched with paint in various hues. The works thus compress an accumulation of experiences and notations, but in their shifting state as we move before them, re-establish the sense of movement and duration that the artist felt and explored in the works’ research and making. Lee both compresses time and place, and then activates it in the mobile experience the works provoke.
Movement is fundamental to her practice. Her research into any work involves constant walking and exploration. This dynamic interrelation between subject and place disrupts the developers’ view of urban space as sites of productivity and profit, with areas divided in computerised plans and negotiated in off-site meetings. In the developers’ view, an area is a site of division and clarity, with spaces, movements and activities accounted for, administered and controlled.
But movement disrupts this. As Michel de Certeau explored in a seminal work, The Practice of Everyday Life (1984), dominant ordering systems, whether architectural, urban or linguistic, are always rendered pliable by everyday lived experiences. Even in the banalities of our everyday movements, we actively and creatively appropriate dominant orders by introducing shifts and changes into them. This may be as simple as taking a walk off prescribed pathways, or making little interventions into corners of built up plots so that we act like weeds growing unaccounted for, unauthorised in the interstices of brick and mortar. And it is thus that our innumerable and proliferating movements eschew subordination to a totalising system of clear structuration, because such trajectories can neither be quantified nor organised: ‘Their intertwined paths give their shape to spaces. They weave places together’ as de Certeau notes.
And it is here that Sun Ju Lee’s work enacts a form of political praxis that is central to de Certeau’s politics of walking. In her assemblage of experiences and memories exhibited in gleaming filaments and strange shifting shapes before which we have to move and which we look at again and again, we are reminded of the need to experience our environment dynamically and reciprocally. Lee’s works assert that such experience cannot be contained in terms of productivity and organised leisure and work time, but in terms of a creative embrace of our environment’s forms and affective dimensions. It is thus that Sun Ju Lee affords a space of contemplation and awareness not tethered to a specific proactive end or narrative (in the terms of Brent’s developers ‘Economic Regeneration!’ ‘Recreation!’ ‘Work!’). Rather, her environments and assemblages ask us to inhabit multiple perspectives that do not cohere into a comprehensive, communicative story or experience available for easy summary, reproduction and commodification. Both her own experiences of the overlooked corners of Brent and those of the many people she spoke to are assembled here as a reminder of how we ‘weave spaces together’ thus resisting, at least momentarily (but with promise of further possibilities of change), the structured, surveyed landscapes of our city.
Sun Ju Lee is an artist based in London. She completed an MA in Fine Art at the Royal College of Art, London, in 2010 and is currently an AHRC funded PhD researcher at The University of Leeds. Her works have been shown in a number of exhibitions including: Summer Group Show, Arthill Gallery, London (2017); assembly passage, the Gallery at the Library at Willesden Green, London (2016, Solo); International Print Biennale, Gallery North, Newcastle (2016); Mindful Mindness, Seoul Olympic Museum of Art, Seoul (2016); Floating Platform, Cork Printmakers, Cork (2015, solo project). Selected Residencies and Prizes include: Artist Fellowship Grant for International Residency Programme, Arts Council Korea (2017, 2009); National Glass Centre Residency Award, International Print Biennale, Newcastle (2016); Create Space London Residency and commission, London (2016); Sirius Art Centre residency, Cobh, Ireland (2015); University of Bedfordshire residency, London (2014-2015); Tim and Belinda Mara Trust Award, UK (2010); and RCA Residency at Cite Internationale des Arts, Paris, France