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Stranger in Strange Land

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JAE HOON LEE

Stranger in Strange Land

29th Aug 2015 - 21st Feb 2016

Korean-born New Zealand artist Jae Hoon Lee has been developing this new body of work over several months, including eleven weeks spent in Dunedin, as part of the Gallery’s Visiting Artist Programme. An initial ten day camping trip to Milford Sound and Aoraki, at the beginning of his residency, provided inspiration and source material for this exhibition. Stranger in Strange Land, which includes video, installation and still image, explores notions of the body, space, movement and the landscape – all treated with Lee’s highly polished and hyper-real aesthetic. 

For the past decade Jae Hoon Lee (b. 1973) has lived in and travelled through many different countries, including Korea, America and New Zealand. Born in Seoul, this self-proclaimed ‘cultural wanderer’ immigrated to the United States in 1993. He moved again in 1998, this time to Auckland where he completed a Master of Fine Arts (2001) and Doctorate of Fine Arts (2012), at the University of Auckland. This nomadic lifestyle allows and encourages Lee to explore different cultural landscapes and collect source material – collecting that ultimately defines and informs his practice. 

Stranger in Strange Land brings together a series of videos and still images developed over recent months, including eleven weeks Lee spent in Dunedin as part of the Gallery’s Visiting Artist Programme. During this residency the artist spent ten days camping in various locations throughout Milford Sound and Aoraki. This trip provided the inspiration and footage for the major work in the exhibition, Unguided Tour, a large projection that mirrors itself on two diagonally opposed corners of the gallery space. This work takes the viewer on Lee’s journey through the South Island amongst mountains, valleys and icebergs. At the entrance to the exhibition is one of Lee’s highly regarded composite images, which subtly hints at the familiar. This landscape doesn’t exist in reality; instead it is comprised of a series of images of real locations that have been multiplied and manipulated, anchoring it in the realm between fact and fiction.

This exhibition has also allowed Lee to delve into his archives to develop existing footage in a new context. The grouping of nine screens, positioned just above floor level, shows material the artist collected while travelling on a train through Switzerland, immediately following his time in Dunedin. The two works mounted on the walls were filmed in Indonesia; one looking out from inside a restaurant, catching whatever or whoever passes on the street, while the other, filmed inside a hotel room, records a narrated play from a Muslim TV channel. Finally, the monumental print on the Big Wall is a ‘scanned’ section of park in New York; reinventing the portable scanning technology that Lee employed in a series of breakthrough works from the early 2000s, which documented the minute details of his own skin. 

This exhibition, and Lee’s practice as a whole, places the body at its core; whether it is physically present in the work or in the environment that surrounds it. Stranger in Strange Land, as the title suggests, celebrates and showcases Lee’s artistic interpretations of a path travelled. Every residency, exhibition, holiday or trip home aids in his aesthetic aspirations; to portray nature’s diverse and sublime forms, to utilize the body, movement and space, and to locate and revel in the unseen, overlooked or undiscovered.

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