Kyu Sang Lee
Kyu Sang Lee (b. 1993) is a visual artist who is currently living and working in Germany but previously lived and studied in South Africa. He works primarily with photography, extending and expanding his use of the medium to also encompass installation and video. Acknowledging photography’s capacity to draw on memory, time and space, he focuses on constructing realms of the metaphysical and the surreal. His work is often meditative and contemplative, making use of form as a kind of visual puzzle. A strong aesthetic vocabulary is employed to juxtapose concepts such as dark and light, and time and fate.
Lee grew up between two very different continents and cultures. His contact with divergent traditions and beliefs impacted his approach to working, specifically towards a consideration of working sensitively and with the intention to create work that is universal. Thematically, through this universal approach, Lee draws on notions of religion, practices of spirituality and meditation, but also equally considers the transitional spaces, the movement of clouds and architectural creations in cityscapes and rural spaces. In this way, Lee both resists dogma and engages with iconography. By paying attention to no one culture or practice, Lee works laterally to reinforce his intent of finding commonalities despite oppositional or diverging ideas.
Observing that we live in a world that admires only the extraordinary, Lee shifts his focus to what is often thought to be as banal and insignificant. His practice therefore aims to highlight moments of the ordinary, while through his construction of them illustrating the beauty in their familiarity. Both elegant and sombre, the images shown through video, installation and photography work through abstraction and the uncanny to grapple with the everyday.
A significant aspect of Lee’s practice is his engagement with other artists and art forms. In previous projects, he has worked with peers to create moving portraits as pictorialized moments of conversations about photography. He has also mused on silence and sounds – creating videos and photographic series alongside composers, paying homage and investigating music as a practice that can traverse borders and cultures.
In 2017, Kyu Sang Lee collaborated with Martin Wilson. The two met while studying at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, and enjoyed working together across mediums through an investigation of space, dimensionality and corporeality. The two reunited to create a second work together two years later. Lee has consistently expressed interest in the universality of music in his work, while Wilson engages with bridging the gaps between science and art by exploring manifestations of light and organic materials. In The Sound of Light – Sequences I – III (2019), which debuted at the Investec Cape Town Art Fair 2019, the duo met to create a deeply thoughtful and quiet work. Through its display, audiences may recall the set-up of places of worship, of the cinema or of seats in front of windows. In each instance, the viewer is called into a place of quiet thought.
In The Sound of Light – Sequences I – III (2019), there is a considered contemplation on time-consciousness. By creating a relationship between time and man, Lee and Wilson show the medium of light and sound as a catalyst. Therefore, the formality of Lee’s choices across his artistic practice looks at medium as parallel with specific and pivotal concepts. Lee’s investigation of sound continues as he broadens his use of medium to videos and installations. Since the concept of time is a symbol of universality in his practice, he shows that sound and music are convenient and comfortable ways to be conscious of time as in itself. Through his work, Lee highlights that the realization of the passing of time, ironically implies the limit of time: mortality.
Today, when governments and economies are in crisis, and the obsession with the extraordinary via selfies and social media is overwhelming and very loud, Lee’s work represents a pause, and a moment of stillness. Through his musing on prescribed distances between continents and communities, Lee’s work offers an opportunity to consider the world differently. In this way, Lee shows us how we can choose what to focus on and find beauty within.
Despite only recently graduating, Kyu Sang Lee holds a promising career in the art world. In 2017, he won the Celeste Prize in Photography, juried by Fatoş Üstek. He also boasts a handful of awards from the University of Cape Town, including the Cecil Skotnes Award for Most Promising Artist. Since then, he has exhibited with Eclectica Contemporary on numerous occasions, including travelling with them to exhibit in Paris in 2018 and being featured in the Investec Cape Town Art Fair’s 2019 SOLO section. Lee’s work will be featured at the Zeitz MOCAA from May 2019.