We, too, seem to take her road

IN HA Lee, who painted this country lane stretching away into the distance, is a young Korean artist living in Seoul. Her grandfather was a well-known artist (one of his works is in the Smithsonian), as was her father. From her early childhood In Ha Lee was encouraged to draw and paint; art materials were always at hand in her home, where the atmosphere was conducive to the observation and love of beauty -- especially the beauty of nature. She has always been in love with the mild hills and fields of rustic Korea, and she is particularly attuned to the mystery and lure of a road winding away with no end in sight. As one looks at her work, many European pictures with a similar inspiration come to mind -- the Dutch, French, and English schools have many of these enticing scenes. Miss Lee thinks of life, she says, as a passage, or a ``going,'' and of herself ``in the middle of a road, treading on and expecting to reach someday a resting plac e.'' She is fascinated by this sort of quiet journey and can at once transmit the mood to her viewer.

She paints on Chinese primed drawing paper, which she feels is the right medium for producing a ``smooth'' effect, using two or three sheets placed together to achieve ``the profound delicacy of softness.'' The sheets are laid one on top of the other, but not glued; they absorb color and become saturated to a point that she finds responsive to the shades she wants. These are muted, subtle tones, generally brownish and blue, which seem to different people to be different colors. She avoids black ink and likes chromatic colors, which are soft and neutral; and winter delights her because of her awareness of its ``great yet soft color.''

Western pictures of roads sometimes show lanes going through open countryside, but often they pass under heavy trees through forest glades. In Ha Lee's are generally of the former type, and in conformity with such scenes her painting is done in a sparse, spare manner, with great restraint. Though obviously influenced by her Asian background, her work could not be described as Oriental -- it is very comprehensible to the Western eye, very sympathetic.

Though her trees are frequently leafless and her skies overcast, her pictures are not melancholy. They seem rather to express her own cheerful and rather insouciant outlook. They are charming and heartening to live with: Looking at them, we, too, seem to take one of these peaceful roads and journey forward with ease.

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