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Miju Lee

(1982, South Korea)

Miju Lee depicts clear objects. However, the images in her paintings seem to be viewed from a “chiaroscuro” state, rather than a clear consciousness, as if they are emerging from fantasies, daydreams, and dozing. Some dreams are so clear that we mistake them for reality, even after we are awake. Resonating with both clear and unclear meanings that cannot be described in words, these deeply emotional, fleeting scenes tend to quickly volatilize from memory. Miju Lee has shown a unique talent for faithfully translating these indescribable scenes into paintings.

“I often pick up one or two clam or conch shells when I walk on the beach. I refer to this habit of mine as “jupjup,” a slang for “picking up and collecting items” circulated initially by Korea’s MMO gaming community. Each day, we encounter countless objects and pass by millions of feelings and moments. From those, we select a few, refine or add stories to them, then store them in a place of treasures in our hearts. And such somethings, accumulated through the incessant collection, selective process, and storage, become the history of a person.

In her notes, Miju Lee wrote, “When I began to accept that I did not have to be something, I suddenly wanted to capture sights with no purpose. I felt alive with the joy of such acts.” While this type of statement from an artist can be interpreted as representing a pure act of creation, in her case it reminds more of an individual’s struggle to escape from the system. This might be because Miju Lee’s images convey a familiar feeling, but are also very different from anything else in the con-
temporary art system. Imagine a world where nothing that we do seems strange because nothing can define us: could we ever feel more free?