Art and film collide in Yoora Lee’s cinematic oil paintings

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Art and film collide in Yoora Lee’s cinematic oil paintings


Yoora Lee paints memories and emotions as if she were viewing them at a “movie theatre” – “a drama with evocative music and melancholic colours.” Fascinated by the unique viewpoints, compositions and colours which abound in the world of cinema, the artist will often watch films in her studio before beginning a new piece. Later, she’ll make copious sketches before settling on a composition and then articulating it in oil paint, using her unique style of horizontal strokes to compose forms. Through this delicate layering of thin oil paint, her artworks seem to tremble with momentum, “like a video on a TV screen”.

Beginning her technical training in South Korea where she was born and raised, Yoora moved to Chicago to continue developing her personal style: “Instead of just painting subjects from reference, I’ve graduated to telling stories through my work.” The kind of story that Yoora likes to portray are often ones that are hard to describe simply. For example, recent experimentations have led her to depict the “love encounter”; “a painful collision of different things and at the same time a mixture of ecstasy”.

The “love encounter” in films is often captured as a dizzy sensory overload. But Yoora points out that this “passionate type of love often feels unrealistic compared to what really happens in life”. In her painting Poom, she captures the sadness of separation towards the end of a relationship. Expertly evoking the overwhelming emotions that become attached to our sense of smell, the painting describes “the longing for a loved one as a scent”, she tells us. In pale, melancholic hues, a seated figure emerges from textured brushstrokes. Leaning into their folded arms, the figure takes a deep breath in as they remember a loved one through their lingering scent.



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