Jeewi Lee started the ongoing series of paintings “Fields of Fragments” during her stay at the Blank 100 Residency in Portugal. These abstract, earth-toned compositions testify to the artist’s conceptual approach to the traditional medium of painting, which can be seen throughout her work. While Lee used coffee and coffee grounds as a speaking material for her almost monochrome pictorial creations in the series “Interval” and “Insomnia” in 2020, she started working with sand in 2022. As if they were pigments, the artist creates color fields or gradients with grains of sediment she has collected herself in homage to the works of the Korean art movement called Dansaekhwa (“monochrome painting”), which reached its peak in the 1970s as a subversive, artistic response to the political crisis that had followed the Korean War. In her choice of material, Lee likewise takes up an issue that will define world politics even more clearly in the future: the finite nature of sand as a raw material, which counts as the second most important resource for humanity after water and is necessary for the production of concrete, cement, glass, and silicon. However, in the meditative artistic act of painting with sand, Lee also accentuates the nature of the individual grain: each has its own long history, always finds itself on the move, and is thus free to cross the borders of states and continents. The finer and rounder a grain is, the longer it has been wandering. Contemplating these tiny world archives, and the constantly moving ground the sand grains form, Lee questions the definition of territory, borders, and ultimately of belonging.
Text: Lydia Korndörfer