Jae Hoon Lee

Auckland artist Jae Hoon Lee creates composite images: stitched-together landscapes, strangely flayed portraits and kaleidoscopic nature studies. His digital prints are seamless, but oddly disjointed. Lee is an analytical cubist with Photoshop skills.

The dyptich Residue is a dual portrait whose subjects are giant eruptions of refuse. The shapes echo Archiboldo heads, but whereas the Mannerist painter’s images read both as composites and as individual components, Lee’s residues never resolve satisfyingly, either as a gestalt or as single elements. They oscillate between form and formlessness.

One of the teetering and impossible piles is pale and gritty, built of gravel and broken chunks of concrete, the other is a rusty tangle in which the same objects reappear, copied and pasted over and over. Both heaps are strung together by bent and twisted rebar – the sinew of prestressed construction the world over. The setting, indicated by stacked drums, containers and pallets, is some marginal industrial zone: a port, staging area or building site.

The pallid form is more definitely a head: there is the suggestion of nose and chin, a hint, perhaps of classical statuary via the Statue of Liberty (but a dinged-up, Planet of the Apes-style, post-apocalyptic Liberty). The other is lumpier more ambiguous. It looks almost about to be sucked up into the sky by some great wind. The forms rear up against impossibly smooth digital grey skies. Perhaps they are a pair of silhouettes.The silhouette is an economical representation, a shadowy outline originating, as the story goes, in a poverty of means, in cut-rate pictures for patrons too tight or too broke to pay for a full portrait.

It is axiomatic that you learn most about a society from what it throws away. Maybe rather than the wreck of architecture and industry Lee’s diptych is a loving family portrait, an economical representation of another kind.

First published in Contemporary magazine, Annual 2008