The work of Korean woodcut artist Lee Chul Soo, on display in an exhibition entitled Visual Poetry at Davidson Galleries on 313 Occidental Ave S. in Seattle’s Pioneer Square from August 7-29, demonstrates a masterful simplicity that invites the viewer to meditate upon themes involving their relationship with nature, family and society as a whole. The artist, a rice farmer and practitioner of Zen Buddhism, shares his observations of the world through an original approach to the Classical Eastern format of combining imagery with poetry.
In a style reminiscent of the Zen brush masters, Lee creates shapes using fluid lines while maintaining the bold flatness of form inherent in woodblock printing. Because of this, the artist is able to capture a sense of spontaneity and movement that can easily be lost in this time-consuming medium. The subtle texture and luminosity of handmade Korean mulberry paper, upon which the images are printed, is well balanced with the subdued style of Lee’s work. Executed in black ink with small touches of color, Lee’s prints convey a depth of space with the illusion of endless land, sea, or sky.
In his print, “Thus I Have Heard – Birds Are Flying Up,” (pictured) Lee shows us a flock of birds suddenly taking flight from a grove of trees. The tiny figure of a man reminds us of how small we are in relation to nature, and the title of the piece appeals to our sense of hearing as we experience the sound of a thousand flapping wings. Although many of the pieces are playful or humorous, some hold a touching gravity. The print Speed presents the viewer with a tiny frog about to be run over by the tire of a car–the poem commenting on the helplessness of life. While all of the poems in Lee’s work apparently contain a deeper meaning, some are less enigmatic than others. “A Gift,” the image of a box with missile wrapping paper, includes the following poem written by Kwon Jeongsaeng, “I heard that some people send a parcel containing a bomb…” Though these three examples represent very different themes, Lee’s underlying message always stems from his respect for humanity and love of nature.
Although simple at first glance, the art of Lee Chul Soo draws you into another world, which develops in complexity with each passing second of observation. Visual Poetry is not to be missed. For more information including hours and directions, contact Davidson Galleries at (206) 624-1324 or visit their website at www.davidsongalleries.com..