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Exhibition news: Lee Jaehyo — Nature Bound, at Pontone and Albemarle Gallery

Pontone Gallery’s first exhibition of the New Year is a solo show by Lee Jaehyo, more usually seen at Albemarle Gallery. I’m looking forward to seeing his new works using polished nails. Previously the designs have been abstract, looking like constellations of stars. The latest work looks to be moving towards more representational designs.

Lee Jaehyo Nature Bound

20 January – 25 February 2017
Pontone Gallery | 43 Cadogan Gardens | London SW3 2TB |
Monday – Friday: 10am-7pm | Saturday: 11am-7pm | Sunday: 11am-6pm

2 March – 1 April 2017
Albemarle Gallery | 49 Albemarle Street | London W1S 4JR |
Monday to Friday: 10am-6pm | Saturday: 10am-4pm

Lee Jae-hyo: 0121-1110=116072 (2016)
Lee Jae-hyo: 0121-1110=116072 (2016). Wood (Camelia)
57 x 97 x 94 cm (22.5 x 38 x 37 in). Courtesy of the gallery and artist

Lee Jaehyo is a Korean sculptor who has exhibited extensively in his homeland and in Europe. He has shown regularly at the Albemarle Gallery in London and now makes his debut at their new space, The Pontone Gallery.

He makes free-standing sculptures and reliefs from humble, almost mundane, materials, principally logs and steel nails. These are transformed with great skill and hours of industrious toil into lustrous and refined objects. Their highly polished and burnished surfaces express an attention to detail and a painstaking concern for disclosing the innate beauty of the material. These unique forms are derived from the interdependence of man-made and natural. Their structural integrity relies on the contrasting combination of steel and wood.

His sculptures are biomorphic in form. The shapes of egg, pod and amoeba, and the modular nature of their construction, speak to us of growth and reproduction. While we can see reference to the simple, cell-like, structures of nature, there are also allusions to the man-made in echoes of table, bench and seat. Some of these pieces are deliberately ambiguous; their function suddenly becomes contradictory: can you sit on a sculpture? Can you eat off one? They are inviting us to do so. At the same time we are only too aware of their status as ‘Art’. He makes us reconsider our relationship with the ‘everyday’, the taken-for-granted, material world.

What is strongly expressed by Lee Jaehyo’s work is a concern for, and immersive appreciation of, the natural world. His winning from his environment of basic and almost unregarded material (logs, simple steel fixings and scrap nails) and their metamorphosis under his hands is compelling. This is the ordinary made luxurious by intervention, by a sculptor who can see the beauty in the commonplace, who exposes it with the craft skills of a master cabinet maker.

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