Jiyoung Lee

08.07 2016 INTERVIEW DATE

Gallerist

Seongnae-dong, Gangdong-gu, Seoul

For gallerist Jiyoung Lee, home is where she rests, being completely shut off from the outside world. She moved out of the apartment building in Yeouido and settled down in a residential area of Seongnae-dong as soon as her marital life began. Stripped off with everything unnecessary, the house is adorned with only a moderate number of furnitures and lights, along with a couple of artworks she adores. On a peaceful Sunday afternoon, we carefully knocked on her privately hidden front door.

 

Yoojin Jung

Please introduce yourself.

I’m a gallerist working at a contemporary art gallery. My main is job is to plan exhibitions and take charge of artist management. Artist management covers communication with artists along with a number of other responsibilities such as discovering and scouting upcoming artists, having discussions about their new works to exhibit, and accompanying their agonies to find good ways to build up their career. The most exciting part of working with artists is visiting their studios. Aside from the interiors, studios embed the personal taste of the artist which is very interesting to look at. And it gives more comfort when exchanging deeper conversations about the artwork.

 

 

Visiting artist studios must have increased your interest in spaces.

I’ve been living in an apartment building in Yeouido for as long as I can remember. Yeouido is a well-planned part of the city so every apartment buildings resemble each other. So much similarities that writer Wanseo Park (a renowned Korean novelist) had once mentioned about it in one of her essays. And it was later when I studied in New York when my curiosity of houses grew for the first time. I started examining how people’s lives were reflected into spaces and visiting artist studios have heightened the interest. There are so many fascinating and diverse studio spaces that made me realize that, in a way, they might be a result of a biggest extravagance one can afford.

 

How different is a well-furnished house and an artist studio?

In a studio, you can usually find a variety of images that are related to one’s work or reference images in need. They could simply act as a decoration but it’s more like showing what’s going on inside the head of the artist, which is really exciting to find out about. I was once visiting a studio of artist Jiwon Kim who adhered to painting cockscomb for 15 years and I noticed paint dripping down one of his easels. And at that moment it didn’t seem like paint but an actual petal of cockscomb falling to the floor, so red that it glared a bit of blue. It’s very moving when I witness such overwhelming elements of the artwork substitute the beautiness of the space.

 

We were told this house have long-belonged to your husband, where he grew up as a little kid. What was your first impression?

The yard seemed a bit small—I thought it’d be much bigger. But then my husband got so enthusiastic in explaining every bit of the house like; “That maple tree sprung from the seed that fell from the maple tree next to it,” “When the town was flooded I rode the rubber tub and slid as far as to Cheonho-dong,” “This wall didn’t exist until we agreed with our neighbor to build one” and so on. The house carries enormous amounts of his wonderful memories. And as a college student, he designed a floor plan to apply to a renovation the house underwent and sometimes he’d bring out old pictures of the house and his floor plan and talk about the comparison. He might be in deeper love with the house than me.(laugh)

 

How does it feel to own a yard for the first time in your life?

Considering the fact that the yard sits in a boundary of the exterior and interior of the house, it feels a bit strange whenever I relax or have a meal there. The best part is that I can take a walk inside my own domain with only my pajamas on. Staying close to dirt is also nice and I’ve started growing some plants as well.

 

It’s a new neighborhood and a new dwelling environment for you.

If I had moved to another neighborhood, I’d still choose to live in a detached house because it allows me to lead an independent lifestyle. Apartment buildings won’t spare you privacy because you meet all these people in the elevator to start with. I’m an outgoing person but I’m the kind who strictly separates personal life and space from work or my public life. I can get very secretive about myself that I invited only a few, very close people to my wedding and stayed private about it even with my colleagues at the gallery or the artists.(laugh) And I think such personality fits well with the dwelling form of a detached house. If we have the opportunity, we plan to build a new home.

 

How do you spend your time at home?

We don’t have a TV so my husband and I sit on the couch after dinner and keep the talking going for a while. We usually talk about what had happened that day or what had been tough to handle—about our days, normal stuff, and in the end we’re always surprised to find out that our conversation had lasted for hours.

 

It seems like you have a lot to share with each other.

My husband has a clear taste of his own and knows for sure what he’d fond of. And he cares less what others might think. My taste was built based on a large influence from him. I began to think finding your taste and the ways to live the way you want is a big deal in life and the experience with artists had helped me confirm my tastes. But I’m still on the journey to search them and it’s more about finding out what I don’t like rather than what I like.

 

What kind of a city is Seoul to you?

For me, Seoul had been nothing but a large mass in the past. And I moved about within a very limited boundary. But as I started to work as a gallerist and dwell in a whole new place, I made a rediscovery of what’s really inside the city. There’s this play sort of thing that I enjoy with my husband--it’s called a ‘mutt play.’ And what we do is that we just keep on walking where our footsteps take us, without driving our car. And while at it, we look around for a nice spot to later build our new house. The best area for our mutt play these days are Myeongnyun-dong. One of Korea’s first generation painter Sangbong Doh’s descendants attached a residential structure to his old atelier by his house there. It has this very peaceful atmosphere. Myeongnyun-dong is next to Sungkyunkwan University (Daehangno) and I used to think of Daehangno as a cheesy area but going back there today, it doesn’t feel that way anymore, and the old Marronnier Park now feels very pleasant.

 

What are you currently interested in?

Instagram. What’s amazing about it is that I get to see the things I saw by having to visit studios of artists, whether it be for work or personal get-togethers, only with a few tapping on my smartphone. Nowadays I’m into an artist named Ryan Gander. His works are witty but also very lyrical. For instance, you walk into the exhibition and see a pair of large eyes that follow people. It’s like the other way around—viewers aren’t viewing the artwork but instead they are being watched by the artwork. And I’ve been in love with his instagram account. He recently posted a book called <Artist Cocktail> and I wondered if it was his next artwork or an exhibition related book or a book about cocktail he wrote. Instagram is an excellent tool for discovering the world of artists from the other side of the planet and a window to peek into their upcoming works, and all I need is my thumb.

 

RECOMMENDED PLACE

mk2

17 Jahamunro 10-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul
3 Gyeongbokgung
02-730-6420
11:00-23:00 (Mon-Sun)

“One of my artists wanted to introduce me to a nice cafe and took me there.”

 

 

For Tongui-dong (Seochon) locals, the cafe is like a special guestroom. It is run by a photographer and vintage furniture collector Jongmyeong Lee and his wife Mikyeong Lee, a designer. The edges of its menu plates are worn out, hinting how old the place is, but it still welcomes a large number of tourists. The white-toned neatness and the calm interior offers a great atmosphere to enjoy the peaceful air of Seochon. The little room with low chairs and bookshelf filled with art related books and magazines makes mk2 all the more charming. Not to mention the drinks, it serves a large variety of menus such as cakes, sandwiches and side dishes.