Installation view · 설치뷰, 2014

Hanji (traditional Korean mulberry paper) was originally used for writing and painting, but in the late Joseon period one more usage was added. While studying, in order to ease their ennui, scholarly literati (Seonbi), took the paper on which they practiced writing and cut it into pieces, twisting them into things that they needed. Jiseung artworks are made using woven paper, which is made by rubbing and twisting Hanji, and they display the simplicity of Korean aesthetics. When Hanji was not easily available, the production and use of Jiseung was limited to the nobility (Yangban). After the paper became common, it was also used by commoners. Although Jiseung was quite popular during the Joseon dynasty, it has become less readily available in recent years, and its artistic uses are not taught as much as other traditional crafts such as ceramics, woodenware and brassware.

Lee Young Soon is gaining attention for the fact that she has reinterpreted and reproduced the tradition of Jiseung in a modern sense, expanding its possibilities. For the last thirty years, she has striven to show the genuine nature of traditional Jiseung, and to modernize it at the same time. Like a monk who pursues truth, she carefully concentrates on her repetitive labor for many hours.In earlier times, scraps of Hanji or exercise paper for painting were used to make Jiseung. But these days Jiseung artists add their own artistic inspirations and intentions to the production of Jiseung. Lee Young Soon has sought not only the authentic tradition of Jiseung but also new possibilities of the tradition, driving her to produce experimental works. Some of her works are modern interior objects, which are made by wrapping commonly used items with woven paper strings. They display her understanding of contemporary demands and her personal artistic language.

Lee Young Soon studied textile art at college, and industrial design at a graduate school. In the 1970’s, she focused on various kinds of art such as dyeing, weaving, design and installation art. During this period, she came across a pile of Jiseung for the first time while sorting out remains of the Royal Household inside Changdeok Palace. She became enchanted by the distinguished texture of the paper and by the traditional Korean colors. From that point on, for forty years, she has continued to work on Jiseung artworks despite the accompanying physical pain in her fingers. Her fingers no longer have fingerprints, and they are curved because of the continuous motions of rubbing and twisting. Although nobody seemed to care, she has carried on.

Her work contains eternal beauty imprinted in the tactility of her handwork. It expresses the warm sensibility that rises from Hanji at its best, and yet it is sophisticated, exuberant and soft. It is not an exaggeration to say that her works exhibit the general qualities of aesthetics that are shared by all great art.

Biography

After graduating from Duksung Women’s University in 1972, Lee Young Soon studied at the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit, in America, in 1980. Majoring in textile art, she searched for the most Korean medium, and Jiseung (woven paper crafts) became her main inspiration. She has tried to modernize woven paper crafts, to reinterpret the traditional beauty of that medium, and to adapt that technique to make contemporary art. She taught at Sungshin Women’s University and at Duksung Women’s University. She worked as an adviser in design at Yonsei University and as a consultant for design construction with the Tongyang Group. She has had many solo exhibitions, including the Paper Modeling exhibition at the Sun Gallery in Seoul in 1986, Lee Young Soon: Ordinariness, Repetition, Distinctiveness at the Kumho Museum of Art in 2002, and a retrospective exhibition: Lee Young Soon’s Jiseung Works: New as Old, Old as New at the Seoul Museum of Art in Southern Seoul, in 2014. In 2004, she participated in group exhibitions at the Sungkok Art Museum, the Kumho Museum of Art, the Whanki Museum, and at the LA international Biennial Art exhibition. In addition, she participated in public art projects such as the stage design of The Nutcracker at Seoul Foreign School in 2004, the lobby design of the central library at Yonsei University in 2005, the outdoor advertisement of Tongyang Securities (currently Yuanta Securities) in 2007-2008, and the landscape design of the Tongyang Group. Her works have been purchased by the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, the central library at Yonsei University, the Tongyang Group, the Kumho Museum of Art, and others.