When the yellow hits my eye
Selling Exhibition • 29 March - 12 April 2023 • Hong Kong

S otheby’s Hong Kong is pleased to present Korean artist, Je Yeoran’s first exhibition in Hong Kong. Curated by Jang-Uk Lee, Chief Curator at Space K, Seoul, the solo exhibition titled When the yellow hits my eye will showcase over 20 abstract paintings produced between 1997 to 2023, ranging from Je’s signature Usquam Nusquam series, to rare examples of her earlier Becoming and Becoming series. 

"I hope that the audience experiences my works by looking at them closely and feeling comfortable. I think the advantage of the sculptural element of my paintings is that you can experience the work in 360 degrees and it awakens your senses. I want my work to be an experience that dares to cross borders."
Je Yeoran

Je’s journey in abstraction began in the 1980s during a period where pioneering abstract Asian artists such as Park Seobo, Lee Ufan and Kazuo Shiraga were working. She is one of the few female abstract painters of her generation from Korea. Je’s sole use of the squeegee as a tool as opposed to a traditional paint brush, makes works iconic. As she tames the flat rubber blade, it becomes as extension of her body, and each work becomes a performative accumulation of bodily gestures, driven by her internal impulses.

"Water is nature’s best sculpting tool. Almost knife-like, as collisions and reconcilements between various forces renders mountains and rocks with curvatures and textures, it is hard to tell how high the peaks rise and how deep the valley’s sink when observed from above. Similarly with Je’s paintings, it is hard to ascertain which areas still contain moisture of fresh paint, and which areas are drier, with wrinkles of time."
Jang-Uk Lee

Exhibition Details

29 March – 12 April 2023
Weekdays | 10:00 AM–6:00 PM
Weekends | 11:00 AM–5:00 PM
*Except on 29 March: 11:00 AM–3:00 PM; 31 March: 10:00 AM–4:00 PM

Sotheby's Hong Kong Gallery
5/F, One Pacific Place, Admiralty

*Pre-registration is required. Successful registrants will receive an email confirmation, which is required for admission to the exhibition.


Fusako Oshima | Fusako.Oshima@sothebys.com
Junior Specialist / Cataloguer, Private Sales


In the earlier days of her practice, Je was mostly engaged in lithography, a flat medium. It was only after her sojourn in Europe in 1987, that she progressed to painting, showcasing her relentless dedication to artistic experimentation, thus introducing texture and investigating the characteristics of painting, by introducing a squeegee into her practice.

 “After wrapping up a phase in 2006, I felt the need for using colours from the inside. For me, certain turning points in my career and demand for change came from my paintings, not outside.”
Je Yeoran

Her first series, Untitled (1990s), explored the polarity between darkness and light, and was followed by injections of bold blue and red tones in “Becoming and Becoming” (2000–2006). Symbolically they convey messages about a mysterious primitive existence. In terms of form, these pseudo-abstract or quasi-landscapes shows Je’s attempt at overcoming the painting’s visual and stylistic limitation through visual ambiguity. Not about ‘a painting of something’ but ‘about a painting that could be something.’

The Juxtaposition of Colour and Movement

Usquam Nusquam (2006 onwards), the artist’s most prominent series, embraces the “anywhere and nowhere”-ness of reality in all its messy, multilayered complexity. Je believes art is about supporting life and finding happiness from it. Drawing inspiration from nature, the fabric of time, and human energy flows, Je also takes reference from her mother’s deft approach to dealing with life, "my mother turned a patch of barren ground into fertile land that she cultivated. I wish my work would do the same." Her paintings represent the juxtaposition of colour and movement, intertwining antagonism and dynamism, expansion and contraction, anger and ecstasy. These elements are skillfully balanced in her works to ultimately bring calm and a peaceful state of mind to the viewer. This harmony is reflected in the title, Usquam Nusquam, where the visual power of the paintings amount to everything and nothing at the same time.

About the Artist

B orn in 1960, Je is currently based in Uiwang, Korea. She received her BFA & MFA in painting at Hongik University in Seoul, during which she lived in Europe with Germany as her base, before settling in Uiwang on the outskirts of Seoul. Je’s major solo shows include Total Museum (Seoul, Korea), Mimesis Art Museum (Paju, Korea), Jeon Hyeok Rim Museum (Gyeongsangnam-do, Korea) Space K, (Seoul, Korea), and has participated in group exhibitions at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (Seoul, Korea), Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore (Singapore), Seoul Museum of Art (Seoul, Korea), Busan Museum of Art (Busan, Korea), Jeonnam Museum of Art (Gwangyang, Korea) among other galleries and institutions. 

Je’s works are in the permanent collections of Ludwig Cologne Foundation, Germany; Fondation Louis Vuitton, France; National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA), Korea; Seoul Museum of Art, Korea; Posco Center, Korea; Total Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea and Paradise Cultural Foundation, Korea among others.

About the Curator

J ang-Uk Lee (@janguklee.art) is the chief curator of Space K, a private museum operated by the Kolon Group founded in 2011. Since its establishment, Lee has lead over 160 exhibitions notably Hernan Bas (2021), Neo Rauch & Rosa Loy (2021) and Ryan Gander (2021), as well as introducing Daniel Richter (2022), Justin Mortimer (2020), Daniel Firman (2017), Rose Wylie (2016), and Caroline Walker (2015) to Korea. Lee is also passionate about discovering and supporting young artists internationally, in addition to re-examining undervalued Korean artists.

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