Art is a great healer, but it can also be one of our greatest teachers. It teaches us the importance of letting go. For Korean- born artist Jay Lee, practising art taught her to let go of perfection, expectations, and the life she thought she had planned for herself.
From a young age Jay was incredibly career driven. Having always been motivated to keep pushing herself higher and higher up the success ladder, she eventually found that she was not content living life this way. Something needed to change. When searching for an activity she could do with her daughter, Jay started a painting class. This rekindled her childhood love of painting. Her passion for art reignited, that class turned out to be life affirming.
Starting a new way of life
Feeling a pull to shift something in her life, Jay migrated to the US where she began working remotely for an American tech company. Here, she began what she calls her ‘moving art studio’. Setting up at-home studios in the airbnbs she was living in, Jay began her nomadic lifestyle. She has since travelled with this moving studio to various cities across in the US, such as San Francisco, San Diego and LA, to name only a few. She then continued onto Tulum and Mexico City. Striking a balance between motherhood, her career and her artistic practice has indeed been a challenge. However, Jay felt it was necessary in order for her happiness to prevail.
Jay’s practice was initially quite a personal exercise in healing and reconnecting with herself through painting. She reflects deeply and often. Through this reflection she has been able to revisit and deconstruct old thoughts patterns. With each country she visits or lives in, would come new art and with it, new thought processes and feelings. While still in Seoul this included rethinking what was once familiar. Moving to the US meant beginning to reshape her role as a mother to her daughter in Korea while also rediscovering herself and her ambitions.
Subsequently, in Mexico, she seemed to find a sweet spot, somewhere that finally felt like a home. It was there, during the summer of 2023 where she held her first solo show in KOIK Contemporary titled Dreams. She has since carried out a second solo show at El Sur artist residency program in Mexico City.
images by PILOTENKUECHE or supplied by the artist
Jay finds play in her practice
Her practice has hugely evolved since first beginning to revisit painting. Jay began leaving behind the constraints she had previously been putting herself under. After beginning with painting abstractly on large canvases, she now explores the areas of sculpture, ceramics in addition to paint. Weaving her everyday emotions with the ever-changing landscapes she finds herself in, Jay’s work is heavily influenced by her varying environment. She incorporates aspects of her environment into her works, whether that be through using local plants and flowers, natural pigments or using found objects.
Jay emphasises an importance in building a sense of connectivity to a place. She allows herself to be completely open to experiencing new environments and the treasures they may hold. It is a vital component in creating her works. She makes work instinctively and playfully without much regard or worry for the finished product. Besides enjoying the artistic process, Jay also derives joy and inner-peace in being able to recognise the feelings and thoughts she was having during the production of the art.
Welcoming an empty space for the audience
Coming to Leipzig and undertaking this residency means that Jay has been away from Korea and from her daughter for a longer period than usual. Consequently, for the first time since leaving Korea, she is starting to feel homesick for her people and for the place she called home. Leaning into this feeling, her work at the PILOTENKUECHE residency is based on nostalgia. She currently feels ready to consider the audience and how she could inspire and teach others through her work. Therefore, she is striving to create something more broad and not as confessional as her past work. Jay’s aim is to manufacture a more empty space. A space where the audience can relate and draw their own connotations from the works.
More so than making amazing works of art, Jay’s wish is to make her life a work of art. Although she is constantly curious to see what lesson her art will teach her next, Jay also hopes to one day be settled – to have a more static base. In the meantime, she lives and works in a state of openness and freedom. Endeavouring always to remain as present as possible and to make work that heals herself and perhaps her audience as well.
“I’m living my dream, so I just want to keep doing it. That’s my dream.”
written by Marika Sheridan
PK & Friends open studio
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