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RHEE SEUNDJA (KOREA, 1918-2009)
RHEE SEUNDJA (KOREA, 1918-2009)

Juvenescence

Details
RHEE SEUNDJA (KOREA, 1918-2009)
Juvenescence
signed and dated 'SEUND JA RHEE 61' (lower right)
oil on canvas
64.7 x 46.3 cm. (25 1/2 x 18 1/4 in.)
Painted in 1961
Provenance
Private Collection, Asia

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Annie Lee
Annie Lee

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Lot Essay

Rhee Seundja is one of the most important pioneers in the history of Korean abstract art, who was fully devoted to creating art throughout six decades from the 1950s to 2009 when she passed away at the age of 91 in Paris. Rhee's magnificent oeuvre illustrates the subjects of her paintings evolved from earth to the Earth and then the cosmos. It reflects her logic and philosophy to probe the universal truth transcending emotions of physical existence. During a TV interview in 1985, which was broadcasted by KBS, the national broadcaster of Korea, Rhee emphasized that she chose geometrical figures such as triangle, square and round as universal signs transcending time and the border, stating "they are basic visual shapes, which anyone can understand."
Two works featured here exemplify Rhee's artistic evolvement. Juvenescence (Lot 567) painted in 1961 is a great example from the Woman and Earth series, resumed in 1958 with her first solo exhibition at the Galerie Lara Vincy, one of the most noted galleries in Paris at that time. Rhee once stated that she wanted to express the virtue of woman, enduring yet tender femininity through the series. It lasted about 10 years, until 1967 before her departure to the States. The works from this period are composed with a few geometrical forms. As Juvenescence illustrates, on the contrary to refined simple appearance, the process is painstakingly time-consuming and labour-intensive. It results in the exquisite texture, which mesmerizes the viewers if they examine the surface of the painting. Juvenescence is filled with a myriad of lines produced by painfully repetitive brushstrokes, which creates a deep resonance in the viewer because they embody Rhee's irresistible yearning and cure for her beloved children left in Korea, thousands of miles away from her.
Une Cité De Vénus Avril (A City Of Venus April) (Lot 568) is from her last series, Cosmos. As the title describes, it is a city in the universe, yet at the same time it is her hometown and nature. For instance, the colour pink in the painting represents the Milky Way, but also the azalea, which blossomed all over in her hometown every spring. Rhee once mentioned that azalea was always her favourite flower and it symbolised her memory of childhood in a small village and further, nature and universe to her. Une Cité De Vénus Avril (A City Of Venus April) also embodies implicitly Rhee's consistent conception of yin and yang, which penetrates her entire lifelong career. Rhee's signature ideograms and colours are not only aesthetic manifestation but codes to hint harmony of yin and yang. Two marvelous paintings featured here will provide the viewer with the opportunity to appreciate Rhee's diversity in style and depth in philosophy, exemplifying two different series, five decades apart.

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