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Q&A with Artist Jae Hoon Lee

By Katherine Hoby

It's been 11 years since Korean-born artist Jae Hoon Lee exhibited his photographs at Tauranga Art Gallery. Katherine caught up with the photographer recently to see what he's been up to since and how his work has evolved.

Work from 'A Leaf' exhibition, showing a time-lapsed version of a leaf's life cycle through the period of a year
KH: Did your 2007 exhibition at Tauranga Art Gallery impact your art practice?
 
JHL: A Leaf was very important as it was the catalyst for changing my main interest to nature. My subject matter in my photographic work was expanded to include green fields, ocean waves, trees, stones… and so on. I wanted to re-compose the original form of these natural elements and transform them through the digital filter. It enabled me to create the alchemical fusion between many different natural elements. It enabled me to create the alchemical fusion between many different natural elements. My digitally collaged photography is time-based; sourcing multiple images of the same natural element over a protracted time and then stitching them together to create one photograph. The main characteristic of the digital tool in my work is its flexible and fluid-like capability, which allows me tremendous freedom to recreate the surrounding environment. I feel like I am expanding my living boundaries and sense of myself by doing so. So the exhibition was an important step for me.
Jae Hoon Lee, 'Tip of Iceburg', 2017.
KH: It's been over 10 years since your Tauranga Art Gallery exhibition. What have you been up to since then?
 
JHL: In recent years, I have been documenting and re-creating my surrounding environment in terms of relocating myself between different cultural territories through travel. I believe that my first impressions of, and intuition towards, the somewhat strange and different nature of these places will manifest into a seed and grow to a potential topic or theme for a new body of work. At first, I let my emotions overflow with these new places and then it comes clear as a visualized form. I rigorously aim to be engaged with untouched and unknown territories as often as I can. It always stimulates and stirs a great deal of curiosity and motivation in me.
Collaboration with Daniel Crooks, 2008
KH: Where do your influences come from?
 
JHL: I have been involved with some group shows in other counties over the last 10 years. Furthermore, the presentation of images of my artworks takes an effective and influential role with much wider exposure online. My influences and ideas come from everywhere but obviously nature is the master for me.
Bill Viola. Photo: Musée Magazine
KH: Who is your art superhero?      
 
JHL: When I entered art school in America, I was an admirer of Bill Viola’s breathtaking video and installation works. I especially had a huge emotional impact from his installation, He weeps for you, which showed at San Francisco Museum of Art almost the whole time I was studying at San Francisco Art Institute for my BFA. I somehow believe that the emotional and poetic tendencies in my work were conceived by this early work of Viola. It is beautifully assembled and absurdly thought out at the same time; with such a depth that it made me believe the state of materialistic reality could go beyond to another level. Follow this link to view the work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8EkqHa7R8c