Keunmin Lee
Refining Hallucinations , 2014
Oil on Canvas
95 x 400 in. (240 x 1016 cm)

Solidifying in the Frame


Shin Gallery is pleased to announce the opening of Keunmin Lee's solo exhibition. This will be Keunmin’s first solo show in the United States. The exhibition will be on view at Shin Gallery from September 7 through November 30, 2014, with an opening reception beginning at 7:00 p.m. on September 7.
This young Korean artist has several complex aims in his latest body of work presented in Solidifying in the Frame—a series of charcoal and pencil drawings and paintings that depict hallucinatory figures. The beings Keunmin sketches are gruesome. They are wrecks of tangled flesh and tissue that morph into sexual organs, elephants, corpulent men, and odd indecipherable forms. These forms refer to or are informed by Keunmin’s illness. Fourteen years ago he was diagnosed as having borderline personality disorder. These images are records of his encounters with the hallucinations that have plagued him since. For many of those years he thought of himself as defined by this condition and by the physicians responding to his illness.
Keunmin's practice, and these drawings, are attempts to redefine himself: Rather than succumbing to a doctor’s diagnosis to see himself as merely sick, he chooses to regard his condition as a visionary power, and the hallucinations as sources of creative material. By making this change in perspective, he claims himself as an artist, for himself. In this way he refuses the label of “pathological”, instead harnessing his visions as resources for inspired action.
Keunmin would like other artists, and people in general, to see this change in perspective as a crucial strategy for their own lives and practices. Others, he says, should look at their apparent limitations not as impediments to accomplishing their work, but as particular capabilities that are unique to them. In a way these drawings propose that we do not need to see ourselves as damaged, but empowered by our distinctive faculties.
At the same time, Keunmin attempts to define the creatures that appear in his hallucinations, creatures which, existing as they do in his consciousness, are by their nature mysterious, insubstantial, ephemeral, gossamer. In marking his phantasms out on paper and canvas, Keunmin articulates them by hand, and being articulated they are made more real. Being drawn, they still retain their ambiguity but they no longer only persist in the mind of the artist as haunting apparitions.
And this is an underlying intention of Keunmin’s practice: to create a continual journal or log of the visions he has encountered. It is important to him to keep a record of these meetings—so conflicted and provocative and crucial to the artist he has become. Ultimately, Keunmin Lee produces this work out of a desire to realize who he is, of what his character consists, and the malignant spirits that visit him do not need to be avoided, but engaged for him to make this self discovery, drawing by drawing.