Johyun Gallery proudly presents a solo exhibition of internationally recognised artist, Lee Bae, from 18 November, 2016 - 8 January, 2017. The exhibition consists of 10 works from Issu du feu, a series revealing the texture of charcoal on canvas, and landscape, a series which has unique geometric motives. In addition to these series which are representative of the artist's early years with charcoal (early 2000’s), the exhibition will present new works that combine acrylic with black pigment.
Currently based in Paris, Lee Bae has worked in Korea, Paris and New York over the last 20 years. In 2015, Lee Bae became the first Korean artist to have a solo exhibition at The Guimet Museum, the largest museum of Asian art in Europe. Other solo presentations include, Dansaekhwa: Korean Monochrome Painting at National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Korea, 2012, as well as two other solo exhibitions at the Contemporary Art Museum, Daegu, Korea, and Fernet Branca Fondation, Saint-Louis, France.
Lee Bae's practice of combining charcoal with traditional modes of Korean painting has captivated viewers, both domestically and internationally over the past two decades. Charcoal has a very symbolic meaning for the artist, as he believes in its ability to communicate the unique quality of Korean culture. In his works, charcoal is not just a material but also a method to show the Oriental moods through black tones. The artist has frequently stated that the color black contains all colors, so there is not just one experience of black but rather hundreds.
Issu du feu is made by a process where the artist attaches cut pieces of charcoal side by side and then polishes the surface. It exposes different light with millions of sides of charcoal, and create angles of light that are delicate and soft. Landscape is made by a process where the artist attaches the smashed charcoal with mediums and then attaches them on the canvas. These works show the artist's trials to expand the two-dimensional limitations of painting and be more like a sculpture.
Lee Bae's practice of using charcoal as a primary material developed upon his move to France in 1990. While previously, his practice involved the process of layering oils, he was drawn to the accessibility of charcoal. When he first started using charcoal, his primary interest was the human body. Drawing the human body with charcoal proved to be dry as it lacked adhesive strength. This led to the artist developing a process of 'painting over' which required immense patience as he must use glue made of pine resin and water-soluble ingredients to adhere the charcoal powder onto the canvas. This process results in the transformation of the charcoal into a rough matter (matière), giving it a quality akin to relievo. The layers and expanded scales transforms the work, delving deeper into his own ideologies than the basic materials seen on the canvas at first glance.
Following his exploration into the human form, Lee Bae's interest expanded to Alchemy and Nature, bringing international attention, particularly from European galleries. His works have been widely exhibited in the Korean art scene since 1995. Since the 2000's, the artist stopped using charcoal as his primary material, and instead turned to acrylic and black pigment. His most recent works utilise acrylic and charcoal by drawing motives with charcoal powder mixed with acrylic, which is then spread over the canvas and repeated three times once it dries. As a result, the works convey spatial thickness and time stratum. The paintings thus exist as a three dimensional reality rather than a two dimensional, flat surface.
This break away from his earlier practice was captured in a performance where he tossed the black charcoal powder and the mass of charcoal out into the sky. He has since utilised monochromatic palettes in his works as a means to communicate abstraction. The exhibition presents works from before and after this meaningful and memorable performance. With his own unique works and use of charcoal, Lee Bae has lead the Korean Contemporary Art scene in the past two decades. Through this exhibition, we hope it will be a great opportunity for audiences to feel the stream of Contemporary Modern art with a mixture of traditional materials.