JONGWANG LEE AT SUSAN ELEY FINE ARTOctober 12, 2011
Resin paintings seem to be in fashion nowadays. Understandable since they provide a liquidly immersive experience different from other mediums.
Jongwang Lee has been in New York for the past 15 years, painting at his studio in Long Island City. He is ethnically Korean but was raised in Tokyo so he uses the influences from three cultures in his work.
Lee’s work is all about depth; nothing is on the surface. Using a painstaking process he layers clear or colored resin, adds a painted element, layers more resin and so forth until the piece is done. He achieves stunning luminosity.
This show included abstract paintings, ethnically focused pieces and an entire series of portraits of Abraham Lincoln with a variety of eye colors. Curiously, this caused great debate. No one knew which were historically accurate. Courtesy of Lincoln himself. the answer is … grey, the one color not used.
But back to technique. Lee uses stretched canvas as the base for his paintings. In his most recent work, the canvas faces forward, as we most usually would expect. Even in these, there are many, many layers of resin and paint. We have two examples: Nirvana III (one of the ethnic pieces) and Resurrection, an abstract. In Nirvana III, you have an excellent descriptor of Lee’s technique: swathes of transparent color, and oil details, all layered with intervening levels of resin to achieve depth and draw your attention further into the piece. There is somehow greater clarity using this method.
The older work has the canvas in the rear, using the wooden frame as a basin holding the resin. Ecstasy is the best example of this process. Fortunately, Lee used yellow so that the detail of his technique is clear. You not only see the clear resin bubbles and the paint (affected of course by the color of the resin) you also see the depth and shape of the framing. This piece is at least ¾ of an inch thick, so imagine the number of layers and the hours of work involved.
In all honesty, I’m not sure that I like this body of work, but I’m fascinated by the process. Lee has started a dialogue and I’m curious where he goes with it.