Lee Jaehyo is a Korean sculptor who has exhibited extensively in his homeland and in Europe. He makes free-standing sculptures and reliefs from humble, almost mundane, materials, principally logs and steel nails. These are transformed with great skill and hours of industrious toil into lustrous and refined objects. Their highly polished and burnished surfaces express an attention to detail and a painstaking concern for disclosing the innate beauty of the material. These unique forms are derived from the interdependence of man-made and natural. Their structural integrity relies on the contrasting combination of steel and wood.
His sculptures are biomorphic in form. The shapes of egg, pod and amoeba, and the modular nature of their construction, speak to us of growth and reproduction. While we can see reference to the simple, cell-like, structures of nature, there are also allusions to the man-made in echoes of table, bench and seat. Some of these pieces are deliberately ambiguous; their function suddenly becomes contradictory: can you sit on a sculpture? Can you eat off one? They are inviting us to do so. At the same time we are only too aware of their status as ‘Art’. He makes us reconsider our relationship with the ‘everyday’, the taken-for-granted, material world.
What is strongly expressed by Lee Jaehyo’s work is a concern for, and immersive appreciation of, the natural world. His apprehension of basic and almost unregarded material (logs, simple steel fixings and scrap nails) and their metamorphosis under his hands is compelling. This is the ordinary made luxurious by intervention, by a sculptor who can see the beauty in the commonplace, who exposes it with the craft skills of a master cabinet maker.