Lee Seung Jio(1941-1990) pursued a strict world of geometric abstractionism, which was unprecedented in Korean art scene in 1970s and 1980s. Lee’s geometric abstract painting was continuously developed, and this was supported by his wills for pure formation. The pipes which are the trademarks of Lee’s works were, in fact, started out as an exercise in the composition of bars. Spanning vertically or horizontally, the bars are formed by spraying pigment in varying gradations. The pigment is darkest at the top of the bar and fades as it reaches the bottom, creating the illusion of a cylinder.
Many people assume the subject to be pipes, and yet the artist was not consciously depicting pipes. So in fact, the images are both pipes and not pipes. And though his work originated from the negation of representation, the recurring image of pipes seems to be a return to representation whether Lee had originally intended this or not.
In some cases he emphasized the metallic nature of the pipes; in others he would alternate the cylinders with others cut into pre-set lengths or arrange them into a certain order. The effect is very cold, but tight and densely structured. The images seem to be an expression of Lee's confidence in his method. At the same time, they convey the tension of the ambiguity of pipes that are not pipes.
Many people today recognize Lee Seung Jio for his steadfast, even stubborn, adherence to the same path; his reputation stands out all the more for his consistency in the face of extreme shifts and vicissitudes. Lee provided a shining example of logic and perseverance to the Korean contemporary art scene with lack of experience and tradition. For that alone he will be remembered.
Lee Seung Jio’s works are featured in many premier institutions across the nation, which include National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Gwacheon, Ho-Am Art Museum, Yongin, Deutsche Bank Collection, Seoul, and Hong-Ik University Museum, Seoul.