7 OCT - 21 JAN, 2023

In Jae Hoon Lee’s new work for The Lightship, a scrolling band of clouds drifts across an impossibly blue, sparkling sky. The work presents a panoramic window onto a sublime archetype of the sky-as-metaphor, symbolising freedom, release, salvation, and any number of other positively charged ideas. What, then, sets it apart from the countless advertisements, desktop backgrounds and other media that also display the cloud-heaven ideogram?

The answer will become apparent to astute viewers after one or two cycles, as they begin to notice the inconsistency of the light sources illuminating the clouds’ edges, their impossibly tangled and contorted forms, and the overall subtle scent of irreality that permeates the work. Like all of Lee’s photographic output, this sky is a composite, constructed in image editing software from a library of other photographs. Lee is, of course, hoping to be caught; his works are adroitly designed to draw attention to their own artificiality and, by extension, the fundamentally duplicitous nature of photography as a whole, a medium that seeks to become invisible by presenting itself as an unfiltered facsimile of the real.

Watching the clouds go by, viewers may ask themselves, what other seemingly innocuous images have I been exposed to lately that were equally as contrived, and for what purpose?


About the artist: 

A self-proclaimed cultural wanderer, Korean-born photographer Jae Hoon Lee grew up in Seoul, emigrated to the USA in 1993 to study at the San Francisco Art Institute, and then in 1998 to Auckland, New Zealand, where he graduated MFA (2001) and DocFA (2012) from the University of Auckland’s Elam School of Fine Arts. Lee’s multiple migrations and his preoccupation with expanding technological advances have continued to define and inform his practice. His work makes apparent his enduring concerns of place, movement, and individuality. Lee’s digitally enhanced, hyper-real landscapes are a composite of images he personally gathers in his travels. While his works initially deceive the viewer with their familiar appearance, closer inspection reveals an acutely subjective engagement with the visual texture of a location, an elaborate visual trick.
Lee’s digital photographs, video installation and sculpture have been exhibited widely in New Zealand and internationally over the past fifteen years, and acquired for both public and private collections. Lee won the prestigious Wallace Arts Trust Paramount Award in 2013, including a 6-month residency in the International Studio and Curatorial Program in Brooklyn, New York City; and in 2014 was awarded the Asia New Zealand Foundation’s Cemeti Art House Residency in Indonesia. Lee lives and works in Auckland, New Zealand.


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Last updated: 29 August 2023