Since several years Jeewi Lee has been working on an artistic cycle of works that deal with visibility of traces. The focus is on both human traces from our everyday lives, as well as on historical traces that burn themselves into various materials and thus bear witness to history. In her work “Tracing the 38th Parallel of Korea” (working title), she refers to certain historical traces of the history of her homeland Korea, which at the same time bear witness to people’s everyday lives. The 38th degree of latitude as a central marker of the border represents a manifestation of the complex Korean conflict.
Using an ancient Asian technique, she makes paper prints of Korean trees that are rooted exactly at latitude 38. The age of the trees is a relevant criterion, since she only selects trees that were already fully grown before the division of the country in 1945. Naturally, trees cannot leave their homeland on their own. For this reason, they are a living testimony, exemplary for the 1945 division. Lee has chosen ten evenly distributed topographic points along this line, of which five points are located in South Korea and five in North Korea due to border policies. As a consequence, her work remains incomplete because, as a South Korean citizen, she cannot visit the trees north of the border. This incompleteness is a part of her artistic concept.
At those five points in South Korea, she chose trees that met her criteria of age and location to make Hanji prints of them, using the traditional Korean printing technique of Takbon. These prints of the tree bark symbolize “fingerprints” of the trees as witnesses of the separation history. The artistic translation of the line through Lee’s prints represent for her a visualization of her home country’s ever-present wound. The works will be shown in a space-filling installation.
- Jeewi Lee, Courtesy of Sexauer gallery