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Korean Contemporary Art: Lee Kangwook

Lee Kangwook

Lee Kangwook draws inspiration from microscopic images of human cells and visions of a gigantic universe as the basis for his abstract-like paintings, which represent these two opposed spaces. Although distinctively opposite in capacity, they don’t seem dissimilar both being invisible to human eyes and senses. Lee’s paintings are stories of these to contradicting worlds.

Source: LondonKoreanLinks

Lee Kangwook employs abstraction on his large-scale canvases to investigate two opposing, yet complementary forces: the microscopic and the macroscopic. Since 1999, he has been working extensively with the ‘cells’ motif. As observing cellular tissues and nervous systems through the microscope, he fixes the cellular images onto the canvas through layers of various membranes – thin layers of gel and gouache – and adds floating celestial bodies, freely drawn and dotted with glittering matter.The artist’s journey to ‘Invisible Spaces’ began with his interest with the notion that the whole is more than a composition of fragments. Although living organisms are composed as a whole by units of cells, synthesising each of these fragments cannot create the whole.This organic relationship between a single unit and the whole becomes a microscopic language in pursuit of myself where the whole becomes “me” and each fragment becomes the molecules that constructs “myself ”.

Based on the ancient Hindu philosophy called ‘Upanishads’, the ancient Indian people believed that the human body is connected with unparalleled cosmic significance and parts of the body are homologised with cosmic phenomena. Likewise, Lee’s paintings evocate of infinite cosmic space full of minute particles simultaneously.The composition of each element in his painting is an eloquent manifestation of aesthetic impression we expect to discover in both macro and micro spaces. As an organic linkage of a neuron system stretching out in all directions, his paintings imply the infinite invisible world, which is interwoven altogether.They are the product of his appreciation of an infinite invisible world through the minutest part of his inner self rather than through the external features of the surrounding world.

‘Myself’ and the visual boundary shown in the picture frame are both just a portion of the whole. The closer we get, the narrower the boundary gets.Thus, we reveal ourselves – which we have not yet seen before.

Lee Kangwook (b.1976) lives and works in London, United Kingdom. He received M.F.A at Chelsea College of Art and Design and M.F.A and B.F.A in Painting at Hongik University, Seoul. His works has been exhibited at international galleries including Leonhard Ruthmuller | Contemporary art Basel, Galerie Boordeinde Noordeinde Den Haag, Spring Gallery Shanghai, Galerie deTempsTokyo, Cheltenham Art Center Philadelphia, Edge Gallery Hong Kong, Galerie Passage Prague, Grande Halle De La Villette Paris, Seoul Museum of Art Seoul, Gallery Rho Seoul among other. He has been awarded with several prizes and has participated in diverse artist residency and art projects.