Culture Rover

#64 - The Window is the Eye of the Soul

"Oblivion is the container." - Walter Benjamin

In Leeah Joo's haunting oil paintings, the slatted Venetian blinds open almost like prison bars across the darkened windows. One is inside spying out, but somehow also in fear of being seen within. Yet you're not in a placeless place here, not in a tawdry motel or a bordello or some other anonymous, kinky venue. One feels at home in these paintings, only home has an air of quiet desperation, even terror to it. Call it the domestic sublime.

Because the view outside is dusky, obscured, difficult to discern, the paintings turn themselves back in on the viewer's perspective. A strong feeling of interiority results, not exactly suffocating but insulating and containing the sense of space in the paintings. One gazes out on a view seen nightly, repeatedly: back yards and tenement apartment buildings, watching for when the neighbor's baby is put to bed, or the reading lamp turns off. Trying to glimpse the moon and stars just above the gabled roofs. Just staring out into the darkness.

The eye gazes out in search of vistas, but only sees the same view as last night. Then the blinds themselves slowly become the vista, the view, an expansive grid of abstraction. They dizzily deepen and widen, like staring at a blank sheet of graph paper. Moving back and forth between the cramped smallness of the apartment room and the limited view outside, the blinds become a vast escape in the middle: slats and strings in a thrilling, terrifying dreamscape of lines. In and out of focus, at the middle point, their sooty, crooked patterns evoke a world beyond, somehow outside and inside the contained context all at once.

24 May 2005

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