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Suzy Lee explores beyond borders in books

2011/12/16 Source

Two pages of Suzy Lee's "Wave" in which the binding line works as a border / Courtesy of BIR

By Kwon Mee-yoo

A girl, in the left page of a picture book, plays on the beach by the water's edge. The waves from the right page cannot penetrate the left page, as the binding line works as a border between reality and fantasy. The girl sticks out her tongue expecting that the mountainous waves will never flow over to her side. But over the next pages, the waves pass over the line and sweep her away. As the waves hit two pages together, fantasy blends with reality and the girl changes. This is part of what happens in Suzy Lee's illustrated book "Wave".

Lee is known for a series of wordless picture books - "Mirror", "Wave" and "Shadow" - using the innate physical property of books as major characteristics of her work. The binding line in the center of two facing pages of the book, the square-shape of paper and custom of reading from left to right are all closely related to her themes, content and structure. In "Mirror", the binding line works as a mirror of a girl, but the same line separates the real world and shadows in "Shadow".

She exercises her imagination even within the format of the book. "Mirror" is narrow, read from left to right, while "Wave" is wide. She breaks the convention again by making a wide book read from top to bottom in "Shadow". Lee's works show the uniqueness of books as hardware, something irreplaceable by audio books or e-books.

Lee studied painting at Seoul National University and earned her master's degree in book arts at Camberwell College of Arts in London. "Wave" and "Shadow" were named one of the best illustrated children's books by the New York Times in 2008 and 2010 respectively. The books were published in eight countries. Lee is now residing in Singapore with her family.

The author held a lecture on her new book "The Border Trilogy" at SangSang Madang in Seogyo-dong, Seoul, last week organized by publishing company, BIR. "The Border Trilogy", titled "Suzy Lee's Picture Books - The Border of Fantasy and Reality" in Korean, is a manual to the unique series. It contains smaller version of the three works and Lee explains the background and hidden meanings page by page.

She writes how the seagulls following the girl in "Wave" act similarly to a Greek chorus; about a real girl and a mirror image in "Mirror"; and about the dynamic image of shadows in "Shadow".

She said she received emails from a book seller in the United Kingdom, referring a page of "Wave". There is a page where the girl's arm and her sidekick seagull's wing abruptly stop on the binding line.

"He asked me whether it was a printer's error or he's missing something in the book", Lee said at the lecture. "The binding line works as a border between fantasy and reality. My books are possible because they are books".

She went on to say, "When we turn a page, a small world divided by rectangles is opened and closed. The last page is turned. The story is over. The book is closed. The world is closed".

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