Saturday, August 29, 2009

Korean artist Lee Jae-Hyo turns wood and stainless steel nails into mesmerizing art

By Nancy T. Lu

Many Taipei residents are likely to remember seeing an enormous spherical shape in the shadows on one side of the spacious lobby of the Grand Hyatt Taipei.

Chopped pieces of pine wood, which give away the Korean artist’s closeness to Mother Nature, are brought together and crafted to make this attractive piece of art. The creative style of the geometric form is unique and powerful in its simplicity.

Lee Jae-Hyo, the 44-year-old Korean artist who has been making a name internationally through his creative idea and vision, is in Taipei. In fact, his works stand out at the ongoing “Art Taipei 2009” at the Taipei World Trade Center.

“My art is about the material,” said Lee. “Everything begins and ends with the material. I simply want to show the nature of my common raw materials like wood and nails.”

Lee pointed out that wood and nails are easy to find. His creative concern is “to discover a different way to present the common materials.” Obviously he has succeeded in this area with mesmerizing effect.

Lee summed up his art this way: “Investigating new material is the key.”

The artist has been creating wood masterpieces in the last 20 years. His collection of works at the major art trade event in Taipei, however, includes remarkable pieces covered with thousands of stainless steel nails. Such art has been developed in the last five years. The pointed slender fasteners have been pounded in to make patterns which cast a spell on onlookers.

Lee actually started with iron nails. Inability to control their rust made him settle for the harder stainless steel nails.

Whether working with wood or stainless steel nails, Lee has been pulling in the viewers of his art like magnet, intriguing and fascinating them with his amazing use of his chosen material. Chopped pieces of wood make a lounging chair. Nails hammered into burned wood and bended with a tool form the hypnotic pattern of a painting-like wall decoration with surface and edges smoothed out.

Asked if it is technically difficult to produce a work covered with nails, Lee explained that the physical challenge of a tough material like stainless steel nails is easily overcome with the ever-improving tools available. He has not seen the need to invent new devices. Rather, he has simply modified existing ones to meet his needs.

Lee has a number of craftsmen helping him realize his nail art designs. In fact, his catalogue has a picture of a masterpiece covered completely with Korean characters. These, he explained, are the names of all his workers. Another work has been devoted to the Roman alphabet.

"Art Taipei 2009" winds up at the Taipei World Trade Center on September 1.

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