April – May, 2008
Sang Won Lee was the Arts Centre Artist in Residence from April to May, 2008. He also had a residency at the National Art Studio (run by the National Museum of Contemporary Art) in Changdong, Seoul. Unable to have an exhibition at the end of his Arts Centre residency, he was invited to return in February 2009 to exhibit his work produced as a result of his residency. His exhibition entitled Patterns of Life was held in Gallery O in the Arts Centre from 24 February 2009 to 2 March 2009 and featured a selection of work produced in New Zealand whilst in residence and in Korea.
Sang Won Lee’s practice usually centres on observing and presenting human patterns of existence as seen from a bird’s eye view. His large paintings are intricately detailed and capture humans during their leisure time in various locations - a swimming pool, a ski resort or a park. These works reveal the patterns of our lives–both spatial and behavioural. The individuals are all unique, yet without faces they remain anonymous. For Patterns of Life Sang Won brought one of these large paintings from his Resting Place series- Swimming Pool- to New Zealand. He encountered some difficulty travelling from Korea with this large work (dimensions of 1.3 x 1.94m!) but all who saw the exhibition were grateful for his trouble when able to see one of these extraordinary, large-scale works by a talented, young artist for the first time in New Zealand.
The feature work of this exhibition however was the 226 piece Run Project. When living in New Zealand, Sang Won was forced to alter his practice somewhat. Christchurch is quite unlike Korea - highly populated and built up - and as a result, Sang Won’s usual practice of observing masses of people from above proved to be difficult. So too did observing people at the beach (another favourite location) due to the cold autumn weather. Instead, from his window on the second floor of the Arts Centre, Lee observed joggers (and some walkers and cyclists) outside the Botanic Gardens on Rolleston Avenue. The constant stream of people exercising and enjoying some leisure time outside his window provided him with ample subjects for his watercolours. Observing and taking photos by day and painting at night, Lee created the work, which he installed in the gallery across one entire wall. This work was supported by an animation comprising of 30 runners playing on a large monitor that Lee edited after his residency, back in Korea.
Throughout all of Lee’s work, there is little focus on the individual and instead the focus is on the group or the location, linking all the people present together. I wondered whether Korea, like Japan and China, is a country where group stability and happiness is of higher importance than the desires of the individual. Run Project depicts individual joggers in great technical detail, but they are always faceless. Their status as ‘jogger’ is that which unites them, who they are as individuals is less important. The presentation of 226 pieces in series nullifies the idea of the ‘individual’ and presents instead, a slice of Christchurch’s community united in their common enjoyment of something as simple as running. It is testament to Sang Won Lee’s skill and dedication as an artist that each piece should be completed with such care and precise detail.
Exhibition – February 2009
The Arts Centre is very pleased and appreciative that Sang Won was able to return to Christchurch for this exhibition. During his time here, he was able to meet with some local artists, give an artist‘s talk , make connections with the Christchurch Art Gallery and share his artwork with the Christchurch community.
Comprised of drawings, paintings and watercolours (some produced during his time in residence), Lee’s work entitled Patterns of Life displays his proficiency at capturing the patterns of our human existence in these mediums. His large-scale, birds-eye view paintings observe the human activity that is a ski run or a swimming pool and reveal the patterns of our human behaviour. This is not at the expense of capturing the idiosyncrasies of the human figures in his work- a testament to Lee’s skill as an artist.
Sangwon Lee will also bring with him his Run Project consisting of 220 postcard sized watercolour paintings of joggers. For this exhibition at Gallery O in the Arts Centre, Sangwon has made an animation comprised of these watercolours.
Sangwon’s exhibition was proudly supported by the Arts Centre Artist in Residence Programme.With special thanks to: