Metamorphic and mesmerising, Sujin Lee paints the most common subject of all: grass
Looking to the everyday for inspiration, the artist strives to take nature's simple forms and transform them into something mysterious.
- Ayla Angelos
- 2 April 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
Art was something that Sujin Lee approached later on in life. After majoring in sound quality design, she went back and forth between post-production and broadcasting stations, designing sound in different media such as dramas, films, animations and documentaries. “I started it because I liked it so much,” the artist tells It’s Nice That, “but the sound design work based on the video medium didn’t give me enough satisfaction.”
After much thought, Sujin decided to “stop everything” and began to dream about other opportunities – particularly that which could allow a new train of thought, plus an adventure into different genres or art forms. Then, after hearing about Some Institute of Picture Book (SI), it came to awareness that she could enter without any age or academic constraints. “More than anything else, I was most attracted to the fact that forming the characters with an artistic quality through the fusion of philosophy, aesthetics, science and music is SI’s important goal.” Applying at the age of 28, that’s when Sujin learned about painting for the first time – but age is never a limit or timeframe to take on a new craft.
“When I just entered the school, I didn’t think I would be a painter,” she says. But a year and a half later and she was flourishing, discovering the potential of the medium after a year and a half of the course. “The picture gave me the feeling that there is infinite possibility. I want to be a person who really loves painting, expresses himself in painting, communicating with it.”
However, it never quite is a simple path. After graduation, Sujin found herself working alone and had lost all sense of direction and motivation. To combat these feelings, Sujin had taken on a small traditional Korean painting class. “The class reminded me of when I first started painting. I started with a simple line drawing, and I learned attitudes and skills in handling paper and brushes.” Alongside getting to grips with the technicalities of painting, it also taught much about the paintings of her ancestors – sparking the need to gain inspiration from visit museums, as well as checking work online, watching documentaries and films, plus further research on old paintings.
Above all, Sujin believes that inspiration comes from the moments of the everyday. “I’m always keen to discover things that are subtly different in my repetitive daily life,” she continues. As such, the artist begins the day with tea and a healthy bask in the sunshine, moving “lightly” before working. When afternoon comes, she will work until the late hours of midnight, usually collecting imagery to reference later on. “I see countless images a day,” she says, which includes all of the visuals from her everyday life plus everything she sees online. “Some parts of the images and some feelings remain in my head, and don’t leave. And when they stack up, I start working.”
With traditional Korean paper, a marker and ink as the materials of choice, she will experiment with tests and methods in order to reach new-found limits that can be achieved through paint – “that’s the fun part”. And, most recently, Sujin has taken a strong interest in the subject of grass. Drawn in by the “narrow distance” between herself and the objects that she wishes to present, she likes grass for the fact that it’s a natural object that can be “easily spotted around and monitored for a long time”. So, she observed the grass and began to draw it, creating sharp and abstract forms in signature green hues. “I also look at the geographical location of grass growing in the city – even in a city covered with concrete and asphalt, if there’s just a little bit of soil, there will be grass growing there. Its vitality is amazing; it’s hard to recognise, but it’s everywhere if you’re willing to see it.”
Sujin strives to take the simple form of grass and transform it into something more complex and mysterious. Take one of her recent pieces [below] as an example – a “flat and calm picture”, she set out to convey the roof of ‘Hanok’, a traditional Korean house with flat grass, and landed on simple lines and colours. “I wanted to create the work that creates a mysterious atmosphere,” she says, achieved through mixing the “distant and deep timeliness that comes from the old building form of the past with the green grass that exists everywhere today.” At first metamorphic and in some ways perplexing, once you’re aware of Sujin’s inspirations you begin to see grass in every direction – quite literally.