18 Jan Saatchi Yates to Hold Breakthrough Korean Artist Sujin Lee’s First UK Solo Show
Saatchi Yates are delighted to present a solo exhibition of new paintings by artist Sujin Lee, set to open on Wednesday 2 February. Born in Korea’s Jeju Island, famous for its rich landscapes, Lee has since moved to the contrasting metropolitan hub of Seoul where she currently lives and works.
Entering a female-only world, the exhibition sees Lee celebrate female friendships, sisterhood, and all that lies in-between. Pursuing a painting practice predicated upon observation and learning by looking, Lee draws on her immediate surroundings for inspiration, with her fervent observation eventually leaning inwards and towards self-reflection.
Comprising 20 paintings ranging from small portraits to large group scenes, Lee’s new body of work is inspired by her close circle of friends, influencing the groups of female figures represented throughout her paintings. Heads rest upon shoulders or nestle into necks, cheeks press against cheeks, hands hold, with an intimacy encapsulated and a closeness of contact much missed in recent pandemic plagued times.
With a desire to paint her own lived experiences and to experience life through her paintings, Lee develops an air of possible self-portraiture, all the while resisting representational portrayals; rather opting for a more emotionally engaged likeness or more intimate artistic impression. Stating, “what are these girls? Is this me? Or is this just a painting?” Lee asks us to consider her subjects as symbols of friendship, our own relationships with ourselves and others, and also intimate parts of the artist herself.
Inspired by the tranquilising presence of nature in her hometown of Jeju Island, the artists’ latest work also introduces more scenic, surrealistic backdrops of bowed branches, flowing fronds and towering tree trunks, and dreamscape set-dressing for her monumental, staged society portraits.
Almost entirely self-taught, Lee originally studied visual communication and flirted with a career in commercial illustration, before she became frustrated with the constraints placed upon her creative expression and instead, turned to painting as a source of liberation. Lee’s earliest works are notable for their grounding in reality, showcasing snapshots of urban life populated by figures appearing to follow contemporary fashion trends, or depicting domesticity and the interruption of an intimate moment.
Phoebe Saatchi Yates and Arthur Yates commented: “”We heard about a young artist with a small cult following in South Korea, and became increasingly intrigued by her world. She was painting in the ‘Superflat’ style of Murakami and Nara but bringing an elegance and charm through the characters in her female-only world. We started speaking to Sujin in 2019 and she has spent the last two years working on a large-scale exhibition which we are very delighted to present in London.”
The exhibition will be the largest exposition of Lee’s works to date, marking the artists’ debut solo show in the UK launching with a Private View from 6-9PM on Wednesday 2 February and open to the public until Saturday 26 March.