A confession: As of late, I have been a doubter in the temple of Art. Despite scads of well-conceived and well-executed works by talents local and international alike, it has been many moons since my soul has quivered in the face of contemporary art. True, His Luminosity James Turrell did silence me in Seattle, but besides his glowing panes of light waves, my emotional core has remained unstirred (although my eyes and mind may have been tickled). Doubting so, I have sought solace in the films of Sofia Coppola, the novels of Phillip Roth, and the chorales of the Polyphonic Spree, and I did ask myself: When shall the visual arts again make me tremble so?
How dark it is before the dawn, for this Saturday past I did witness a display of art so delicate, mature, and refined that faith flooded my dubious soul, and I felt as if my skin had reversed itself. It was the work of a young Korean woman, Jungjin Lee, whose silent, sensual photographs resemble nothing so much as charcoal drawings and photogravures, though her black tones are as deep as a well of India ink. She paints emulsion onto handmade rice paper, and so her desolate scenes have a brushed and chalky appearance that is connected to the human touch and nature, rather than to the coldness of technology. Solitude, melancholy, and calm pervade Ms. Lee's images of asymmetrical pine trees, solitary saddleback trailers, tangled knots of uprooted trees, and Korean alleyways. Against one egg-toned sky, a flock of gulls swarm like a vibrant constellation, and although it appeared to be a scene of chaos, a sense of order lay beneath the surface and comforted me so. In another highway vista, a short, round tree barren of leaves does its best impression of a human brain, its scraggly limbs extending like a thousand synapses. The hazy gradations in scenes where the sea met the land were salient metaphors of cyclical transformation, and duality, and I found myself lost in them, yet aware of the sublimity of the art in whose presence I dwelt.
I beg that you forgive me my transgressions of faith in this arena of fine arts. But oh, long has been this artless night and oh, glorious are the careful beams of late October morn, peeking over the horizon. Where there once was doubt, there is now hope, and I will go out and spread the good word of this presence among us. To paraphrase the great Swiss photographer Robert Frank about the same artwork, "I was moved by it." CHAS BOWIE