SEA HYUN LEE
SEA HYUN LEE
07/05/2008 - 05/07/2008
Sea Hyun Lee’s paintings are a constant and obsessive shuffling of recurring fragments. His unmistakable series of landscapes are rendered in delicate but pervasive washes of red - large swaths of unmarked white meandering between islands of crimson land. The blank spaces are harshly set against the carefully detailed fragments in red yet cohering into the flawless totality that is created by each painting.
This body of work endlessly revisits and reconstitutes the landscape of the DMZ - The Demilitarized Zone cutting across the Korean Peninsula that acts as a buffer zone between North and South Korea. Reworking fragments of terrain, blocks of land and water, Lee creates a world functioning according to the logic of its own terms. In this sense, it is a world that is entirely hermetic - appropriately so, considering that the territory Lee depicts is defined by the very impregnability of its borders:
When I was serving my mandatory military service, I would be in a tactical area at night, close to the border. I would wear night vision goggles, which coated everything in red. The forests and trees felt so fantastic and beautiful. It was unrealistic scenery filled with horror and fear, and with no possibility of entering.
Lee’s painting functions both on a political and on an aesthetic level. The symbols employed in his work - whether it is the filter of red or the way in which each of his imagined landscapes combine elements of both the North and South Korean mountain ranges into a seamless single landscape - set the visual terms of his paintings, while also delivering a concise political message.
These are also deeply personal works that reference Lee’s own sense of the past and its losses. Here, Lee tarries with two familiar ideas: nostalgia and utopia. But he avoids approaching either with mere simplicity or mere skepticism. Instead, his paintings are infused with a sophisticated sense of nostalgia, and a wry idea of utopia.
Sea Hyun Lee was born in Geoje Island, South Korea in 1967. Graduating from M.F.A Chelsea College, London in 2006, he currently lives and works in London. Recent solo and group exhibitions include Neuberger Museum of Art, New York; Total Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul; Susak Expo, Island of Susak, Croatia; Museum of Hunabaci, Japan.
A catalogue will accompany this exhibition with text by Katie Kitamura