orking with wood, nails, steel and stone as his primary media, Lee focuses his attention on exploring nature’s structural construction. The works are made from a process consisting of dedicated design and complex composing, sculpturing, grinding and refining. The wood pieces are assembled into curves, with which various futurist forms in hyper-modernist style are drawn. Each piece is still embroidered with growth rings. His method has been applauded for exuding a strong personal character and opening up a distinctive direction within contemporary Korean art.
New York-based art writer Jonathan Goodman describes the artist’s working :
Allowing the materials to speak to him, he builds self-contained worlds that mysteriously communicate with their outer surroundings. One of his most striking images is a photograph of a boat-like structure placed in the midst of a stream whose banks are covered with trees. Clearly a manmade sculpture put out into nature, the work contrasts with and succumbs to its surroundings. In the photograph, self-sufficiency is enhanced by the object’s position in a beautiful scene; the poetics of the sculpture lean on an environment that frames its polished surfaces, conferring a further dignity on a form in keeping with its forested setting.
Lee’s works are created through the assembly of a large number of units of the ingredient, and therefore become the respective images of the individual units. In their overall structures and forms, minimalist geometric lines can be found, rich in hyper-modernist imagination. Lee’s art is built upon a typical oriental spirit – in the pursuit of unity and a harmonious co-existence between him and the universe, Lee attempts to demonstrate how humanity can continue to develop civilization with grace, on the basis of a mutual respect between the man-made and natural worlds:
Until recently, my work has been about combining wood with nails or steel bars and integrating them into geometrical shapes such as spheres, hemispheres, or cylinders. Whenever I did this, one of my problems was to keep the nails and bolts out of sight. Now, on the contrary, I put an emphasis on the nails themselves. I drive countless nails into wood, bend them, grind them, and make them protrude. I then burn the wood, blackening its growth ring records and its natural color. The glittering metallic nails on the black charcoal become ever more conspicuous, and through this process, I draw a picture on wood using nails. Those who make a hard living may be the ones who make this world a beautiful place. I certainly do not have the power to make it beautiful. I just hope to reveal the beauty in what is usually seen but not noticed. It may be a rusty bent nail. If you take a close look at it, however, you’ll find out how beautiful it can be.
Born in Hapchen, South Korea, in 1965, Jae Hyo Lee graduated from Hong-Ik University in 1992 with a Bachelor degree in Plastic Art. He has won the Hankook Ilbo Young Artists Award in 1997, the Osaka Triennial Award in 1998, the Kim Sae-Jung Award in 2000, the Sculpture in Woodland Award in 2002 and the Japan Hyogo International Competition Award in 2004. His work resides in the permanent collections of the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea; Hyogo Prefecture Museum of Art, Japan; Busan Metropolitan Art Museum, South Korea; and the Osaka Contemporary Art Center, Japan.