李正雄 Lee Jeongwoong 韓國 b.1982
- Tim Wright -
Lee Jeongwoong is a Korean artist, born in 1982 in Seoul. He graduated from Sungkyungkwan University in 2008, after which he exhibited extensively in Korea. He has shown a number of times with Shine artists at Albemarle Street and now presents a selection of new works at the Pontone Gallery.
On first seeing these paintings, what is perhaps surprising is their stylistic evocation of late nineteenth-century, English romanticism. Resonances with Alma-Tadema, Waterhouse and Lord Leighton abound. His method is a highly crafted model of observational representation which expresses fantastical narratives, much in keeping with these ‘victorian’ influences. However, on closer inspection, we see that this outward appearance carries a multitude of symbols and clues to a particularly Korean and personal sensibility.
Deploying subtle colour and tonality the paintings present dream-like compositions peopled with characters enacting significant but mysterious rituals. They inhabit the architectural spaces of the classical world, but are manifestly oriental in appearance and dress. Aware of this contradiction, we find ourselves in a realm of invention and ambiguity. It prompts us to ask “who are they?”, “what are they doing?” and “what does it mean?”.
The artist has said much about the meaning and messages in his work. They are multiple and various. He articulates ideas about Japanese colonialism, Korea’s rapid development, its ambivalence towards the West, and issues with modernity and tradition. The inhabitants of his painted world act out and symbolise these concepts. He raids a wide variety of cultural sources for ‘symbols and stories’: Jonathan Swift’s‘Gulliver’s Travels’, classical Greek myth, traditional Japanese and Korean history and fairytale are all quoted. There are even references to characters from computer games. All is rendered in keeping with his elegant format. This dense and complex layering of meaning underlays the calm, languid and ‘romantic’ atmosphere of the images. The controlled application of the paint, clear delineation of space and lucid, ‘Mediterranean’ light are an eminently seductive vehicle for the sometimes turbulent, and thought-provoking, ideas running through Lee Jeongwoong’s work.