top of page

Review by Cho ChungHwan(A Tree, Inherent Forms and Nature’s Original Form)

Lee Gil-Rae’s awareness of expressions of the nature of the earth, dirt and nature naturally results in his usage of natural materials. The artist employs everything from traditional materials such as wood, iron and stone to natural materials such as clam shells, oyster shells, marsh snail shells, and fragments of pottery.…The artist constructs the overall form through the repetitive process of fixing these natural materials on sculptural materials like fiberglass reinforced plastics (FRP). Those forms are mostly minimalist geometric shapes such as round shapes, modified tetragon shapes or vertical pillars.…There occurs an irony that all these geometric and abstract forms are structured by organic materials collected from nature. In other words, the abstract forms and organic materials, which wouldn’t match on the external appearances, assimilate with each other and produce reverberation, energy and vitality from the inside. In this way, the relationship between the forms and the materials in Lee Gil-Rae’s work is opened to the point of contact where pure abstract ideas and the nature’s vitality meet.…

In these works, we can see the recognition of the organic relationship between the part and the whole: each part accomplishing organic harmony with the overall shape while not hurting its individual characteristic.…The recognition of the fact that the whole is structuralized by the minimum unit such as shells, pottery fragments or buttons seem to be an analogous expression to the formation of the world and the universe that is constructed by the organic assembly of particles and monad.

Such recognition of the organic relationship between the parts and the whole became relatively more clear and standardized in the works made of copper pipes. In this series, after cutting pipes to a certain size, Lee repeatedly puts those round shaped pipes together. Since these assembled pipes are cut in the same size and shape, comparing to other works with the natural materials, the organic relationship between the part and the whole is revealed more clearly in this series. …Each copper pipe that constructs the whole form is identified with the minimum particle of the life, a miniature universe, a seed of the life, a cell.…

Lee’s interest in nature hits a turning point in the combination between the inner vitality of nature and the sensuous shapes of nature. Finally the artist is able to express the nature’s vital power and the formation of the nature through sensuous similar shapes of the nature in the same intensity as expressing the immanent energy of the nature in the suggestive and abstract manner.…In this series instead of cutting the pipes in a certain size regularly and using the round shape face as it is, this time the side of the round shape is pressed to a long oval shape. This long oval shape then becomes the monad of a tree and through a welding process a form of tree is produced. What is amazing here is that the tree shape made with these oval shape particles very much resemble the surface of the actual tree. There is a standing shape, or naturally curved shape. And there is an imposing one or a skinny one. These trees that especially reference fine trees incorporate the naturally distorted shapes by time and weathering.…

There is a rather profound reason why the artist who has worked with the subject matters of fruits and vegetables chose trees. The artist’s interest has been only focused on the original forms, and that kind of consciousness made him choose trees as his new subject matter in the extension of the origin of the nature. Therefore, the trees from Lee’s new series of work express a metaphor of the original forms that all the forms in the world are originated from and the origin of the nature that is to say natural vitality condensed inside the similar looking forms. …On one hand, this series of tree shapes is distinguished from traditional sculptures that are based on massiveness for its lack of voluminous sense. While maintaining a sense of traditional sculpture by applying labor intensified weaving technique, the artist is trying to find a possibility of post-sculpture that is differentiated from traditional sculpture. Moreover, one can see his recognition of border or post-border from the structure of the trees that the inside and outside are interconnected to each other.

- Kho, Chung-Hwan, <A Tree, Inherent Forms and Nature’s Original Form>, an excerpt from the criticism of Lee Gil-Rae’s the 6th solo exhibition


bottom of page