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, individuality, and the skin as point of difference. Lee’s early use of flatbed scanners to document the minutiae of his body, which he then rendered large scale in looping videos, was the genesis of his skewed visual representations.
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. While the elements of Lee’s work are indeed ‘truthful’, the composite whole is not. Disordered in perspective and time, multiple re-use of identical landscape portions, or images taken at different locations over extended periods, reveal that what is apparently hyper-real is in fact very much a fictional reality.
Curator Robert Leonard, who first presented Lee’s graduate work at Auckland’s Artspace, observed that Lee’s work has expanded ‘into a range of video and photographic works that embrace pornography and religion, the abject and the spectacular; that engage the natural sublime and the technological sublime; that conflate high-level artifice and monstrous bodily organicism; and that fuse vernacular experience with a sense of the religious or spiritual. The work continues to hint at new forms of visual experience, as he combines a photographic logic with the isometric perspective-free gaze of the scanner and the ‘planiverse’ collaging tools of the computer.’
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 was the Antarctica New Zealand Arts Fellow in 2011; he 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.