The PHI Foundation for Contemporary Art is pleased to present the exhibition Lee Bae: UNION.
Born in South Korea, artist Lee Bae uprooted himself and relocated to Paris in 1989. The displacement from the familiar surroundings of his home country activated an engagement with memory, which would become his main matière. This deeper union with the Self would ultimately reacquaint the artist with charcoal as a physical, mental, and spiritual extension of memory.
Dissatisfied with the conventional slender sticks typically used in drawing, one day Lee Bae bought a simple bag of charcoal briquettes. Drawing with these compressed lumps of fuel brought him back to the very first time he started painting. He reconnected with the significance of the colour black in Asian civilization—the colour that expresses all colour. He was reminded of the soot-based India ink used in Korean calligraphy and recalled charcoal’s use as a purifying agent in Korean homes. Furthermore, he recognized charcoal as a powerful metaphor for the cycle of life and death.
For nearly thirty years, Lee Bae has engaged with the formal and conceptual properties of charcoal to create paintings, drawing, sculpture, and installation. This major solo exhibition, his first in Canada, features more than 40 recent works that employ a range of approaches. The exhibition also features a large-scale installation that calls attention to the corporeality of his work and its ability to connect us to a soulful place. Lee Bae’s dedication to presence requires our own, offering a moment of respite and contemplation.
Curated by Cheryl Sim