Search by

I first came across Lee Kangwon's work through the many small objects serenely placed on the floor and their shadows or silhouettes. What we feel from these objects made of rubber sponge and their shadows shaped by sponge dust can be said to be a type of 'modesty'. In the artist's work, we may feel his attitude to be humble, yet determined not to commit any insolence. Of course, Lee takes the generous view that his work remains open to the viewer's judgment and evaluation, rather than pushing any aggressive discourse. Lee furtively hides his narratives, waiting for viewer to approach to the work. Upon closer examination, Lee's gradually emerging narratives embody his sincere attitude toward his objects for the sake of observation, meditation, and pursuit.
Lee's work has a story line. The artist refers to his work both as the process of seeking the traces of space and time; random thoughts and the process of selection and the incidents and situations we encounter in this process; as well as the remains and fragments he renders with his imagination. Viewers first experiencing Lee's work may experience a type of visual confusion. At the moment when viewers realize that within his obscure landscapes there are also concrete narratives, their curiosity about where these objects with their unknown origins came from is heightened.

Lee's work appears as the repetition of gathering and scattering, and in terms of content, his pieces on display can be classified into three categories: figures and patterns in personal space(room in the memory); fragments and vessels that seem to have been excavated from an ancient tomb(old pottery); and missiles and bombs(dangerous plan). The artist's process of making these personal objects runs on to a process of historical pursuit, much like the excavation of ancient artifacts, and finally extends to documentaries having to do with weapons of destruction. Through this exhibition, Lee presents chasing as a form of archiving, enabling viewers to make a guess as to the origin of forms.
Light and darkness derived from objects, reflective light, silhouettes, and shadows are all means for the artist to conceal and express ambiguously rising, fragmentary images. The artist meticulously arranges his objects forming a scene like a panorama, the shelf on which the objects are placed, as well as their shadows, making the arrangement look a work of art. This reveals his will to intentionally fix the gap between reality and images. A good artist is one who can exquisitely and intentionally depicted images, the subconscious, and our imagination. Lee Kangwon's attitude can be likened to that of an archeologist who observes his surroundings and continuously excavates ideas out of his own curiosity.
His objects, as the results of observation and investigation, are presented in various colors such as indigo, pink, violet, and red. Overwhelmed by such hues and forms, viewers are at first unable to perceive the work's content and only realize its true nature after closer examination. Red is embodies earth and fire, both crucial elements of ceramics, and violet, with its metallic quality, signifies the danger of missiles and bombs. The audience may feel a strange sense of treachery when realizing that a beautiful, plastic scene actually consists of missiles and bombs. His aesthetics of form offers a metaphor about the matter of selection within the boundaries of black and white logic. With some objects, it is completely impossible to identify their original forms as they are partly enlarged. Lee's presentation of concrete objects in combination with a small, yet seemingly enormous scene using varying forms of light and darkness can be said to be a visual vehicle representing the ambiguity between the macro and micro.
Lee's objects are transferred to another scene and their archetypes are concealed. They are fragments of memories with their own unique resonance. These fragments, detached as a whole from our memories, become positive pictures or sometimes remain as negative prints, like accumulated panoramas or self-split planets in our ideas. The drawing-like traces of space and time, objects, and their silhouettes give birth to both ideal scenes and fragments. They paradoxically exist as the same and different life forms at the same time. The artist continues step-by-step, producing positive and negative images of his memories in the surrounding objects through meditation and observation. It is both a mysteriously painful, yet pleasurable process.

By Park Younjeong / Chief Curator of SOMA Museum of Art
Quick Page Up