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Biography of Seund Ja Rhee
Painter, etcher and ceramist, Seund Ja Rhee was born in 1918 in Korea in Jeund Nam area, by then under Japanese domination. As a young woman, she will study at Jinju Girls’High School before leaving to Japan at the Djissend University in Tokyo in 1935. She comes back to Korea 3 years later and gets married. In 1951, because of the war in Korea she is separated from her 3 kids. She decides to go to Paris. Her determination is rare and she has an absolute faith in her destiny as an artist.
The cultural change is difficult. Experiencing exile is essential in her work. In 1953, despite a precarious material life, she gets training both as a painter and an etcher in Henri Goetz’s studio at The Grande Chaumière and at Stanley William Hayter’s in the Atelier 17 where she soaks up all the diverse contemporary artistic movements without really finding her own path. When trying to occidentalize her work, she is losing herself.
She settles in Tourettes-sur-Loup, near Vence in 1958. Seund Ja Rhee will find her creative way the very next year through the discovery of a technique : woodcutting. It will become her favorite way of expression with a graphic style imprinted with the symbols and characters of Korean and Chines writings. More than a technique, etching on wood is a physical and spiritual exercise linking her to Nature. Through wood, the artist will remember her childhood garden, her forests and her mountains in Korea. She is a self-taught artist and learns by herself to carve wood and realizes her first works. Totally respectuous of the vegetal kingdom, she refuses to use a press. She then prints her copies herself by hand often by applying woodcuts on paper as stamps, a gesture that makes each print unique. The same care will be used for the making and the applying of inks.
Over the years her work will evolve; in the mid-sixties Seund Ja Rhee frees herself from the conventional frame of the rectangular sheet in order to etch on « natural forms », mainly branches picked up in the nature. From 1972, the artist widens her reflexion around the concept of « La Cité » and big cities she finds out to share the same organic principles as in Nature.
Later, around 1976, Seund Ja Rhee will color the background of her prints with an aerograph and the branches shapes previously applied on paper will stand out. At the end of her life she will have built a house-studio (« Rivière argent ») in Tourettes-sur-Loup made of two semi-hemispheric buildings reminding of the Yin and Yang symbols she particulary loved.
She is the only Korean painter in the Paris School. She had more than 70 individual exhibitions and joined around 300 collective exhibitions in many countries all over the world.
She died at 90 in 2009.