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More works by Lee Jae Hyo

Lee Jae Hyo
111085

Wood (Big Cone Pine)
80 x 54 x 105cm

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Korean sculptor Lee Jae Hyo chooses natural materials such as wood pieces, branches, leaves, and iron nails to create contemporary three-dimensional works, transforming humble materials to create refined, geometric shaped sculptures. In this process of transformation, the artist takes control over nature, dominating it by taking it raw and rendering it immaculate, perfectly carved. His work suggests ambivalence: it is an act of domination, yet, the artist does not hide the inner nature of the medium, as the wood is used in a very literal sense, keeping its natural complexion but acquiring a form that can't be found in nature, part of science and geometry. He respects its inherent qualities and dominates them by force of skill and will, initiating a dialogue both with them and with the viewer.

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  • +Artist Bio

    Lee Jae Hyo was born in 1965 in Hapchen, Korea and graduated from Hong-ik University with a Bachelor Degree in Plastic Art. He assembles natural materials such as wood pieces, branches and leaves, or iron nails, into three-dimensional works by which he opens up a distinctive and innovative direction in contemporary Korean art. He has exhibited in Korea, Japan, China, the UK and the USA and has won a number of honors, including Grand Prize of Osaka Triennial, Young Artist of the Day presented by the Ministry of Culture of Korea and Prize of Excellence in the 2008 Olympic Landscape Sculpture Contest. His works are widely appreciated and collected in Asia, Europe and America.   Read More

  • +Critique

    Korean contemporary art has for some decades now revealed a very special sensibility - neither Chinese nor Japanese, but containing elements reminiscent of both. Lee Jae Hyo's work shows immense respect for natural materials, but also the will to dominate what nature has provided. One is immediately struck by the perfection of his craftsmanship, and led to reflect on the many long hours of hard physical labour that must have gone into the production of these immaculate, yet also intricate objects.
     
    If one knows something about what he has produced previously, one also notes that he is no longer content to produce only quasi-geometric or, alternatively, biomorphic shapes. Many of the sculptures here are also furniture - couches, a chair, a table, a large dish. This development is in step with something that is happening in the art world in general. Fine arts and so-called applied arts, have maintained a respectful, if in some cases also a rather disdainful distance for years. In the West, this is an occurrence that has happened for centuries but the two areas are slowly beginning to come together again. Lee possesses a quality that is usually associated with artists from the Far East - a sly, sophisticated wit. These are domestic items that, for me at least, have an element of parody. Just as Ancient Greek sculpture idealizes the human body, Lee Jae Hyo, tongue-in-cheek, idealizes the image of the chaise longue.
     
    There are several things one can say about this. The first is that the items we encounter in our daily lives, and perhaps most intensely those that we encounter in our own domestic surroundings, have formal qualities that can be thought of in ways quite detached from their actual utility. A sofa is a shape, and that shape can be analysed in terms of visual relationships, not merely in terms of what it feels like to sit on it.
     
    A second observation is that Lee Jaehyo is, in addition, what one might describe as an analyst of luxury. Anyone who encounters his work must immediately be struck by the beauty, and also by the tactility of his surfaces. Yet these surfaces are a direct expression of the qualities of very humble materials.They expose the inner nature of these materials, often in a very literal sense - in the way, for example, that the sculptures made entirely of wood make play with the patterns of tree rings.
     

    The world of western crafts, and especially that part of it that descends directly from the Arts and Crafts movement of the late 19th century, has never been able to feel much affection for things that seem to relate too directly to the world of industry. Lee Jaehyo has no such inhibitions. Stainless steel bolts and nails are part of his palette. These metal items are set into burned wood and then polished flat. They offer a myriad of small light reflecting forms against a dark surface. The effects he achieves with this technique are extremely varied. Sometimes the patterns look like star maps. Sometimes they look like rippling water. Sometimes they look like spermatozoa seen through a microscope. And sometimes they look like seedlings competing for space and air.
     
    The references are not always to nature. Some of his most intriguing works in this category make use of the forms of the western alphabet, all jumbled together. There is an almost irresistible urge to scan them for meaning, to see if one can make out some kind of coded message.
     
    There is a message in what he does, but not one that can be read in any literal sense. Lee Jae Hyo forms his materials. He respects their inherent qualities but also dominates them, both by force of skill and force of will. In doing so, he initiates a dialogue, both with them and with us as spectators. He also does something else, which is comparatively rare in the world of contemporary art. He is, in several senses, a playful artist. He is playful in the sense that he likes to juggle with materials, and see what they can be made to do. He is so fully in command of his skills that there is, paradoxically, no sense of the laborious.

    He is also playful in a different way. He sees the world in a slightly oblique way and has a gift for turning the familiar into the unfamiliar. Almost all of us, at one time or another, have had the experience - perhaps when we have just woken up - of feeling completely disassociated from things that, at other moments, are perfectly familiar to us. A chair is not a chair. A table is not a table. It is, instead, a wholly alien object forcefully imported into an entirely unready consciousness. What Lee Jae Hyo offers, in fact, are opportunities for seeing the world anew, with the kind of innocence of vision that we associate with child's play.

    Edward Lucie-Smith
    Art Historian, Critic and Writer


  • +Exhibitions

    2010
    Albemarle Gallery London
    Kwai Fung Gallery, Hong Kong
    REEVES Contemporary, New York

    2009   
    Gallery Sol Beach, Korea
    Ever Harvest Art Gallery,Taiwan
    Gallery Keumsan, Japan
    Albemarle Gallery London

    2008
    MANAS Art Center, Korea
    BUNDO Gallery, Korea
    DOSI Gallery, Korea
    REEVES Contemporary, New York

    2007
    Gallery Keumsan, Japan
    Gallery Artside, China
    Gallery Keumsan, Korea

    2006   
    Gallery Marin, Korea

    2005   
    Gallery Artside, Korea

    2003
    Gallery Won, Korea

    2001
    Vermont Studio Center, USA

    2000   
    Ilmin Museum of Art, Korea


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