Lee Jae Hyo has been creating wood masterpieces since 1990s. Lee was born in 1965 in Hapchen, Korea. He graduated from Hong-ik University with a Bachelor degree in Plastic Art. He assembles natural materials such as wood pieces, branches and leaves, and iron nails into three-dimensional works which not only hold elegant forms but also convey a strong contemporary mood. He has held many solo exhibitions in Korea, Japan, China, the United Kingdom and the United States. He won a number of honors, including Grand Prize of Osaka Triennial(1998), Young Artist of the Day presented by the Ministry of Culture of Korea(1998) and Prize of Excellence in the 2008 Olympic Landscape Sculpture Contest. His works are widely appreciated and adored by art collectors all over Asia, Europe and America.
“My art is about the material,” said Lee. “Everything begins and ends with the material. I simply want to show the nature of my common raw materials like wood and nails.” His creative concern is “to discover a different way to present the common materials.” Obviously, he has succeeded in this area.
As Lee summarizes his approach, “Investigating new material is the key.”
By: Edward Lucie-Smith (Art Historian, Critic and Writer)
Korean contemporary art has for some decades now revealed a very special sensibility –neither Chinese nor Japanese, but containing elements that are reminiscent of both. Lee Jaehyo’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. The fine arts and the so-called applied arts, having maintained a respectful, if in some cases also rather disdainful distance for years – in the West, you could say for centuries – are slowly starting to come together again.
Lee Jaehyo’s contribution to this development displays a quality not 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 Jaehyo, tongue in cheek, idealizes the image of the chaise lounge.
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 the 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 various. 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 Jaehyo forms his materials. He respects their inherent qualities but also dominates them, both by force of skill and by 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 Jaehyo offers, in fact, are opportunities for seeing the world anew, with the kind of innocence of vision that we associate with child’s play.
|Crown Hotel, Australia|
|Park Hyatt Hotel Zurich, Switzerland|
|Grand Hyatt Hotel Berlin, Germany|
|President Wilson Hotel, Switzerland|
|Marriott Hotel, Korea|
|Cornell University, USA|
|National Museum of Contemporary Art, Korea|
|Moran Museum, Korea|
|W-Seoul Walker-hill Hotel, Korea|
|MGM Hotel, USA|
|Intercontinental Hotel, Switzerland|
|2012||The 28th Sungkok Museum, Korea|
|The 27th Cynthia-Reeves Contemporary, New York|
|2011||The 23rd Momtgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Alabama|
|International Sculpture Symposium in Incheon, Korea|
|Moving Art Village, Nampo Art Museum|
|Art Paris 2011, France|
|SOFA New York 2011, US|
|2010||The 20th Nampo Art Museum, Korea|
|2010 Korea Tomorrow, SETEC|
|The Seoul Art Exhibition , Seoul Museum of Art|
|G20 Seoul Summit Celebration Exhibition for the Korean Fine Arts|
|Taipei Art Fair, Taiwan|
|Shanghai Art Fair, China|
|2009||A Korea & Singapore Joint Sculpture Exhibition, Singapore Botanic Garden, Singapore|
|Korea International Art Fair, COEX, Singapore|
|2008||The 10th Solo Exhibition, Reeves Contemporary, New York|
|2007||From Dot to Dot, Whanki Museum|
|2005||Hyogo International Competition of Painting, Hyogo Prefecture Museum of Art-Japan|
|2004||An Open Commemoration the Olympic Museum|
|2001||The 3rd, Solo Exhibition, Vermont Studio Center, USA|
|2000||The 2nd Solo Exhibition, Ilmin Museum of Art-Korea, Korea|
|1996||the 1st Solo Exhibition, Museum of Seoul Arts Center, Korea|
|2008||Prize of Excellence of 2008 Olympic Landscape Sculpture Contest|
|2005||Prize of Excellence of Hyogo International Competition of Painting|
|2002||Sculpture in Woodland Award|
|2000||Kim Sae-Jung Young Artist Prize|
|1998||Grand Prize Winner of Osaka Triennial|