It’s a while since we’ve had a chance to see Lee Leenam’s work in London. He comes to Pontone Gallery with one of their regulars, Hwang Seontae:
Lee Leenam | Hwang Seontae
Pontone Gallery | 43 Cadogan Gardens | London SW3 2TB
Mon – Sat: 10am – 6pm | Sun: 11am – 6pm
4 October – 4 November 2018
Lee Leenam: Re-Animator
Korean artist Lee Leenam’s practice spans several formats, from fine art sculpture to digital media, as reflected in his extensive curriculum vitae of international exhibitions and awards. This exhibition focuses on works from his rich and surprising manipulations of digital imagery. Each animated sequence is displayed on a large-screen, ‘LED’ television.
The artist uses classical, art-historical images as the basis of his animations. He draws on acknowledged masterpieces of the cultural landscape: from Van Gogh, Velasquez, Klimt and eastern masters such as Chinese artist Guo Xi and Korean Kyon An. Upon these he builds scenes of growth, change and conflict. He creates clusters of cumulative events, transformations, overlays and juxtapositions, gradual accretions of information. Over time these events build, multiply and intensify only to dissipate, fade and fall away returning the image to a state of calm. For example, in ‘The Battle of Civilisation’ what begins as a placid and beautiful rendition of a mythical landscape becomes occluded and invaded by startling science fiction imagery, which builds to a frenzied climax then retreats to reveal the original scene clad in the silent snows of winter.
His playful and surprising interventions induce anticipation. As we wait for the arrival of disparate images and symbols, we experience a mesmerising dramatic tension: how will the scene have its meaning altered?
Common to all these pieces is a sense of continuous modification and flux. In Lee Leenam’s hands the well-known icon becomes a jumping-off point for lyrical invention. He breathes new life and re-animates the authoritatively familiar. He retains an over-riding concern for the aesthetic value of his source material, while emphasising the point that everything is mutable in his poetic scenes of growth and decay.
Born in Damyang of Jeonnam province, Lee Lee Nam graduated from Chosun University in Korea with an undergraduate degree in sculpture and a doctorate degree in Fine Arts. He also completed a PhD program in Media Art at the Graduate School of Communication and Arts of Yonsei University. In his digital reinterpretation of classical masterpieces that reveal nature’s wonders and life’s aura, he attempts to breathe new meaning and vitality into each pixel of image. With more than eight hundred exhibitions, both solo and group in countries like Belgium, China, Qatar, New York, Singapore and Paris under his belt, Lee continues to expand his horizons globally.
His signature works include “Parkyeon Waterfall,” what Geomjae Jeongseon called “a rhapsody that flows from the heavens” and “Cartoon-folding screen” which shows many faces of modern civilization inside a classical painting through the display of interatction among cartoon characters, seasonal transformations, icons and symbols of art, society and war. At the 2016 Busan Biennale, he was the first Korean artist to present a virtual reality artwork using Google’s Tilt Brush technology. In 2017, Lee received Best Artist Award and People’s Choice Award at the 3rd Annual Nanjing International Art Festival chosen by art critics and audience, among others and his works are included in the collections of Incheon International Airport, National Library of Korea, United Nations headquarters in New York, and numerous prominent museums such as the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, the Suning Art Museum and the Zebrastraat Museum in Belgium.
Hwang Seontae: Light, Time and Space
Beautifully constructed from tempered, sandblasted glass and aluminium, Hwang Seontae’s light boxes are printed with precisely rendered images of contemporary, domestic interiors. These scenes are articulated and brought to life by LED lighting, which evokes sunlight playing across the spaces. They are as carefully lit as stage sets.
Seontae’s are idealised ordered and utopian images. highly controlled in their graphic representation, like architects’ orthographic. ‘CAD’ drawings. These dry and diagrammatic representations are animated by the sun, which brings life to a mostly monochromatic world. They capture an illuminated moment of stillness and calm. a contemplative pause.
This world is unpopulated and ambiguous: where are the people? what time is it? Drama and tension creep into such outwardly neutral spaces. We start to look for clues in their spartan arrangements. Sun-bleached and breathless, they yield the smallest signs upon which the viewer can suppose a story. Like the compact dramas of Edward Hopper and the slickly designed interiors of Patrick Caulfield. we construct plausible explanations and possible scenarios: actors absent, we extemporise.
There is a sense of melancholy attached to these spaces. They could be the anodyne apartments of J.G.Ballard’s world. where dissociation and alienation rule. They speak of a frictionless existence, a Design for Living. something bought ‘off-plan’. a refuge from unwanted contact. Is this the dream of a robot?
Redemption is at hand in the form of the sun as the invigorating life-force. It acts as the saviour, articulates the constructed world and makes it habitable and bearable. It is clear from their very construction that these pieces are reliant on light, their existence is predicated on it. The artist seems to be saying: ‘without the sun we are lost’.
Hwang Seontae was born in South Korea in 1972. He studied fine art at Kyunghee University in South Korea and went on to train in Sculpture at Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design Halle in Germany, where he completed his postgraduate study, specialising in Glass Art. He has exhibited in South Korea, the USA and Europe, showing numerous times in the UK, where he is exclusively represented by The Pontone Gallery.
His work takes the form of the ‘light box’, constructed from layers of printed and etched glass, depicting cooly delineated, contemporary interiors. The box has a self-contained light source which articulates the imagined scene. Sunlight enters through windows, casting pools and patterns of illumination and projecting shadowed forms across the silent spaces. In this mostly monochromatic world, there are hints of subtle colour in the exterior glimpses of landscape and foliage. The sun’s rays energise and bring life to the scene. Rooms are deserted but not abandoned; they are furnished and maintained. There is a sense of recent departure and/or imminent return.
If these images express absence, they are also about the expectation of presence. There is a palpable sense of anticipation. They hint at the delayed pleasure of inhabiting such a calm, controlled space and a desire for the ordered, familiar simplicity of domestic structure. This atmosphere of expectation is also theatrical; something may be about to happen. The dramatic space is clearly defined and the props are in place. This may be an interval before action continues.
Whatever our conjecture about these pieces, their overriding sense of is of pause, stillness and suspension. They articulate a space for contemplation. The artist has made a stage-set for the action of the sun, it’s rays lighting the gloom of the man made interior, bringing a moment of clarity and awareness.