I knew nothing of the artist Lee Guk Hyun. But he struck me straight between the eyes as I wondered, accidently, around the Dublin contemporary art fair. I had no money to buy a painting; I was only there because I had mistakenly thought it was the day for the National food exhibition.
But this was disturbing, difficult to understand, it had multiple implications and was quite unsettling. The grey satin is gorgeous. I have seen the work of Alison Watt, who paints nothing but swathes of fabric and beautiful as it is this Lee Guk Hyun has surpassed the best of her fabrics. Here there is the fabric of the satin, of the sheet and of the mask. The mask! The surgical mask! What does it mean, is it a fetish; is it pollution; is she injured, perhaps masking a bruised mouth. There is no definitive answer. The painting is without specific title, being part of a collection the artist has called “veiled” Is she afraid or is she at rest? The pearls, choke like around her neck, might indicate she is in bed after an important and very posh function or party, or perhaps not, perhaps it is just beautiful. It is a surrealist picture. Lee Guk Hyun is a Korean surrealist. It is comparable with Magritte.
He is destined, I think, for great things is Lee Guk Hyun. Despite having no money I managed to negotiate with the gallery a series of staged payments so that I could buy the painting. It hangs uncomfortably on my library wall, haunting and unsettling my visitors.
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