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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Big Seoul (1971)

Big Seoul (1971)

Big Seoul, Video 1:27", 2011

'Big Seoul 1971' 
Jun, Se Young (Curator, PYO gallery)

 JaeWook Lee's works are based on a hidden reality and history, and a beautiful inner side of the city, which are shown as a twofold connection. He overlaps images of a misfortune within the glamour of the city and images of destroyed or unbeautiful elements to a present image of the city. The city, which is now much fancier and bigger than before, brings out paradoxical senses.

This exhibition 'Big Seoul 1971' was inspired by a poet Kwang Seop Kim, who wrote 'Big Seoul' in 1971. The works send out a message to recollect our Seoul. Now that Seoul is turning into a materialistic and visual place day by day after the rapid change from 1950 to 1960, the city has lost a true meaning of existence.
JaeWook Lee produces film-stickers of ordinary sceneries with Han River as the center. A beautiful night view and wealthiness of the present city project memories and history of Seoul. These works are actually an extension of former series 'Beautiful'. The last series has shown truths that are on a knife edge by visualizing many incidents and informations.

Images of ladies doing laundry with laundry bats, a water carrier with water pitcher, children skating and sleighing on a surface of frozen river, and old sceneries of Han River are pinned on a highway road. These two different images wander voidly between the past and the present and they flutter lightly inside our memories like a thin transparent film.
The refugees' lives with Han River as the center after the war became the center fo culture and life in 1950s. The new 'Seoul' that JaeWook Lee combinates with the others remind us of the fading memories and pain that are hidden under the glamourousness of the present city.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Korea in the modern era

2010 Public Art Project
A site-specific practice commissioned by Hyundai-Motor and PYO gallery. 
Korea in the modern era
JaeWook Lee created a line which is made up of the images of old Korean cars in the modern era(70s to early 90s), overlaping with the real cars in Hyundai-Motors' store. It shows both the historical modernization and on-going global capitalistic development in Korea.

JaeWook put translucent films on the window panes of Hyundai-Motors' car store.

Monday, August 30, 2010


Beautiful, 150 X 100cm, c-print, 2009

Beautiful, 100 X 130cm, c-print, 2009

Inviting the spectacle of a city. - Artist JaeWook Lee
Park Woo Jin, Journalist HanKook Weekly Megazine
You can easily get lost in a city. It is not just because of its width and intricacy. There are eye-catching scenes in every direction and the ironies among them are neglected due to the swift progression of the scenes. In the back alleys of magnificent skyscrapers, incidents occur every day and the state-of-art media makes the cruelty of the incidents into a sheer spectacle. Living in a city means to experience, bear, and enjoy such visual impacts and ultimately become numb to the impacts due to the alienation and continuance; having willingness and possibility to understand and judge the source and the ironic mechanism of the scenes lost.

Photographer Lee, JaeWook was also trapped in a maze, when he visited Shanghai. Being overwhelmed by the splendid view, he went into a room of the world’s tallest hotel. On TV, atrocities in Afghanistan were being broadcasted. The sharp contrast between the two events made him dizzy and the concurrence was befuddling.

It was the beginning of his theme, with the subject of a city, incorporating explosions and screaming objects. On the picture of Shanghai Grand Hyatt Hotel’s interior, which is the starting point of his series of work, he carves in brilliantly exploding fragments; for the picture of Seoul’s night view, he dots the picture with the images of a wailing mother who has lost children on a battlefield. The energy created by the conflicting two images is immense. The photographer gathered these pieces of work and displayed under the title of “Beautiful” at the Seoul Kunstdoc Project Space until the last 9th.
“I hope this work to be something that audience are fascinated at first sight and feel the wonder, but little by little, start to question the justification of the beauty they witness.”
Thus, Photographer Lee JaeWook’s work is like the mouth of a deep cavern: strangely enticing people into looking inside, but too frightening. It is because the cause-and-effect relationship, which shows there’s a cost for beauty, is expressed in a rarely frank way. It is an impressive question or Ariadne's yarn, about how much violence and destruction are conducted and simultaneously hidden, in order to construct the “face” like a city.


Beauty can be sad, sadness can be beautiful.

Beautiful, 180 X 50cm, c-print, 2008

Beautiful, 150 X 80cm, c-print, 2008

Untitled, 100 X 80cm, Water Coler on Paper, 2008

Wow, 6m X 4m, Film Stickers on Window pane, 2009
Installaion on MOA, Seoul National University

A Look at the City – Disquieting Truths at SEO Gallery

Beauty can be sad, sadness can be beautiful.

Seoul Night Films Stickers, 150 X 100cm, c-print, 2008

Seoul Daytime Films Stickers, 150 X 100cm, c-print, 2008

A Look at the City – Disquieting Truths
By Kim Mi-jin, Exhibition Director of Seoul Arts Center Hangaram Art Museum & Associate Professor of Hongik University Graduate School
This exhibition aims to shed light on both the interior and exterior scenes of a city that we face in our daily lives through works of two artists, Kim Hong-shik and JaeWook Lee. They both work using different mediums, but address the same subject. After making film stickers with disaster scenes from news found in cyberspace, JaeWook Lee cuts them out and puts them up real windows, finally taking photographs of the resulting day and night scenes. The stickers are put up and photographed, but soon removed from the window and again compiled with a new set of photographs. Lee contrasts popular news images made of thin, transparent stickers with the unified, coercive, yet convenient and beautiful view of the cityscape.

In contrast, Kim Hong-shik prints common street scenes, signs, and monumental buildings on stainless steel plates in an achromatic gray tone. Stainless steel, a medium symbolic of the present age, and fleeting, lighthearted scenes reflect the senselessness of cotemporary people’s everyday life. Kim makes these photographic films on stainless steel using a method of photo etching and completes the work by grinding or through silk-screening.
The two artists have something in common in that they both work with digital photographs of cities or daily living spaces that they have experienced in person and appropriated. With the commencement of human civilization, cities have been constructed and have played a crucial role in bringing about social values and power structures. The city produces the myriad of the aspects of our lives such as labor, commodities, the masses, transportation, medicine, and architecture, offering us hope, delightfulness, sumptuousness, and convenience, and on the other hand, alienation, unfairness, ostentation, barbarity, and violence. In today’s digital era, a modern city incessantly produces, circulates, and consumes new symbols and signs. Within luxurious downtown areas, new slums are created and the city outwardly expands to create other urban spaces like the so-called ‘new towns’ or ‘new cities.’
The film Metropolis, produced in 1927, addressed the confrontation between the elite and the working class and their contrasting work and living spaces, making a bold prediction about the future. The mass media today produces a huge amount of information about violence, crime, and traffic accidents each and every moment, making us believe that our cities are no longer safe. Kim Hong-shik expresses the various aspects of a city with his technique using lenticular lenses. The spaces he presents are quite sensual with their flamboyant colors and dueling images. Prohibition signs in the city scenes convey the paradox that something that can be so pervasive in our daily life can also be banned or illegal.
JaeWook Lee intends to represent materially abundant and happy daily life with sumptuous icons and star-like images over the background of the beautiful light of the Han River. The motive of each image, however, is appropriated from disaster scenes from digitalized cyberspace. We embrace daily disaster news and scenes as part of our everyday life, often considering them as trivial. Lee’s Beautiful seems like disposable, lighthearted, and pleasant, but also carries a subversive message. This seductive fantasy was created at the cost of the devastation of nature, inner self, and spirit. Lee builds up both real and imaginary spaces with these images of disasters and accidents. Like matter and the soul, the relationship between the beauty of a city and its natural disasters seen through his work urges the viewers to take a closer look at our daily lives.
Deconstructed images appear as dead birds and flowers which are not flying freely but look like gloomy plastic lumps. Networking the combination and deconstruction of space and time, Lee expects them to be communicable like freely flying birds. Through this exhibition, Kim Hong-shik and JaeWook Lee depict the city surrounding them by experimenting with new mediums and watch disquieting truths of our time with the acute eyes.

A Day in Shanghai

Technology is beautiful.
Technology is crisis.
At the highest point in Asia, I see a beautiful crisis.
When beauty becomes crisis
I know beauty is always ephemeral.

Window Project 6PM 10PM 2AM 6AM 10AM
90 X 60cm each, c-print, 2007

JaeWook Lee is an artist who lives and works in Seoul, Korea. For the series "A day in Shanghai" Lee placed translucent sihouettes of skyscrapers from across the globe on the windows of a new building in the fast-growing chinese city of Shanghai. Contrasting the real exterior view with the added silhouettes, Lee creates a new urban landscape of overlapping scenes which serve as a metaphor for the city's own growth.

- PrettyBlueSky review

City through window

Window Project, 150 X 85cm, c-print, 2005

Window Project, 180 X 60cm, c-print, 2005

Window Project, 120 X 90cm, c-print, 2007

The Production of Organic Awareness (Unconscious Symbols and Images); the Project of Life
- The Highest Place in Asia – On JaeWook Lee’s Work
By Jeong Yong-do, Art Critic
While society demands we live without our own specific symbols, art marks out the distinct qualities of social existence through symbols to present man as an aesthetic being. Many such symbols in the outside of the art scene can be compare with one-dimensional situations, where an act responds directly to an entity, in relations and mechanical self-sameness revealing attempts that define situations.
Lee aims to define technology through beauty and crisis, which for him are synonymous. But wherever the two concepts share meaning, beauty remains aloof from it. In a similar dialectic, the visible in reconstructed images of a city in his work The Highest Place in Asia, is the idea that evolution is equivalent to the qualitative conditions of existence. The reconstructed images arouse illusions in this work.
But these too are dissimilar for Lee, who states, “The appearance of a city is the world we are conscious of.” Through conscious awareness, will to attain structure, and behavior generating meaning, the reality of mind stands out. We feel completely restless, when faced with nature, destroyed by urban development and construction.
The true nature of a city appears fictitious, to which Lee’s urban images are photographic reconstructions and re-compositions. He also uses stickers to present urban images that reveal objective attributes of objects, seen in the skyscrapers in a city. It is like an act of viewing a city and its modified images, through stickers with site-specific attributes. However, this concept of place is not enough to explain Lee’s work, since a sticker or photograph is not a record of work, but a work of art itself.
Lee’s work is, basically, site-specific but virtually site-generated, which for him is an artistic condition rather than a change to the site. It refuses the logical absoluteness of a situation, in that it presupposes the existence of nature beneath an urban site, like the abyss of our unconsciousness.
The process of developing artistic concepts depends on one’s response to ontological conditions. An act of exploring concepts through visual thought can be justified in works of art. To do this, sameness between physical ways and artistic intent is fundamentally significant, but in terms of interpretation it relates to the domain of truth.
If Lee’s work considers nothing but a super-high-speed development in Asian society through the depiction of high-rising buildings being constructed in a city here and there, it is a mere one-dimensional illusion relying on visual simplicity. Although Lee’s conceptualization of this subject matter is not clear yet, his work involves an ontological sphere, space for thought secure by his work’s relativity. Lee’s work mainly addresses such concepts as the limit of the conscious, unconscious enlightenment, destruction of nature due to the expansion of cities, extinction of an organic world caused by urban waste, and importance of a non-material world responding to a physical world.
In consequence, for Lee, social symbols equate to the truth that we reflect on and concretize in works of art. Uncertainty, both spiritually and physically, exists in every field of human existence. Art raises our awareness, defined by such uncertainty, to the level of unconscious, organic truth. The truth itself is, of course, not absolute, but we have to consider seriously the appearance of social symbols, whether we are attracted to them or feel indifferent.
We have to organize projects of life to consider what we have been unable to perceive or at least forgotten organic awareness due to modernist rationality, or recover aesthetic dimensions hidden by physical logic, asserted by a modern, consumerist world. In this sense, the recordings of artistic activities in JaeWook Lee’s work are significant.


JaeWook Lee
Neo Gothic Fashion
Installation views
Wall Painting and Photos hanging from the ceiling
Coreana Museum


JaeWook Lee
Neo Gothic Fashion Performance
Performers in straw clothes
PPG place, Pittsburgh, PA