Lee Jaehyo: The Spirit in the Material

12 April - 5 May 2019

Lee Jaehyo creates from wood and metal. To transform his raw material he employs time- honoured, traditional skills of chopping, sawing, carving, sanding and polishing. He uses fire and a furnace as an integral part of making his metal ‘nail’ pieces. His is a time-consuming, physically demanding process. The heroic manipulation of recalcitrant raw material is an almost defiant assertion, which resists the ease of modern, technological reproduction such as three-dimensional printing. The elegance of his work is hard-won.


The sculptures are biomorphic; their cell-like structures are organic and protean. Some have a ‘micro-macro’ effect: they could be a tiny organism magnified or a planet made small. Others reference everyday, domestic archetypes: vases, tables and chairs. Curve and contour are expressed. Textures are smooth, silky and invite touch. Reliefs are made from wood studded with nails, which are burnt and then burnished. The nails, like tadpoles, or spermatozoa, create silvery, rhythmic drifts and washes across blackened, charred surfaces. The artist’s various treatments are concerned to emphasise and enhance the inherent beauty of his carefully chosen material.


These pieces bring the values of landscape into the interior arena. Suggestive of the ‘outside’, they have an animistic power, which belies and underpins their poised and refined appearance. These are ‘totemic’ objects, focusses for contemplation and meditation. To experience them is to connect to their elemental, earthly nature. Lee Jaehyo, by his single-minded and devotional action, reveals the spirit in the material.