Artist Lee Yong-baek is to represent Korea at the upcoming 54th Venice Biennale, Arts Council Korea recently announced. According to a report in the Korea Times, Lee, 44, has been chosen as the official representative for the Korean Pavilion in the 2011 showcase.

Lee Yong Baek, 'Angel-Soldier (clothes)', 2005, mixed media (digital print, object), 130 x 130 cm. Image taken from artnet.com.

Lee Yong Baek, 'Angel-Soldier (clothes)', 2005, mixed media (digital print, object), 130 x 130 cm. Image taken from artnet.com.

Click here to read the original Korean Times report and here to read more about the 54th Venice Biennale. To visit the Arts Council Korea’s website click here.

Lee Yong-baek’s mastery of technology

Adept at the employment of different techniques from audio recording to kinetic robotics, Lee is renowned for his innovative installations that play with a broad variety of mediums. His latest pieces combine painting, sculpture and mixed elements to engage spectators in a visually stimulating and emotively charged experience.

“Lee Yong-baek’s biggest strength is that he has a wide spectrum of works both in terms of genre and contents, based on his use of various technologies,” commented Yun Chea-gab, previous executive director of Arario Gallery and the Korean Pavilion’s commissioner for the Biennale.

Lee Yong-baek stages illusory experiences

A frequent participant in exhibitions such as the Gwangju and Busan Biennales, Lee is expected to display reconstituted versions of his successful pieces at the upcoming showcase. Selections will be drawn, for example, from the artist’s hugely popular Angel Soldier and Broken Mirror series, to be adjusted to fit with the architectural design of the Korean Pavilion.

Lauded by many as Lee’s most representative work, Angel Soldier appears at first sight to be a still image filled up to the edges with bright, blossoming flowers. A closer look reveals a soldier creeping silently along in the background, camouflaged by the multi-colored flowers in the foreground that help create the visual illusion. In Broken Mirror, another of Lee’s more successful works, the viewer, standing in front of a flat-screen TV, sees a mirror which is screened in the monitor shattered by a bullet. The multiple layers of optical illusion the work embodies compel searching questions regarding reality and ephemerality.

Lee Yong-baek, 'Angel Soldier'. Image taken from the koreaherald.com.

Lee Yong-baek, 'Angel Soldier'. Image taken from the koreaherald.com.

Lee Yong-baek’s Pieta

Apart from staging intriguing visual effects, the artist does not shy away from exploring more sensitive issues in his works. His Pieta addresses both political and religious themes in the form of three sets of cast-molded figures resembling religious icons. The figures are represented as kissing, in fighting position, and embracing before death in each of the three sets, which convey love, hate, and death respectively.

Lee, who now lives and works in Seoul, first obtained his Bachelor of Fine Arts from the College of Fine Arts, Hongik University in Seoul in 1990 before furthering his studies at the Stuttgart State Academy of Art and Design (Stattliche Akademie der bildende Keunste Stuttgart) in Germany.

South Korea in the Venice Biennale

South Korea has participated in the Venice Biennale since 1995, when the Korean Pavilion was first constructed by architect Kim Seok-chul. Among the artists whose works have been featured at the Biennale are Yang Haegue (solo exhibition 2009), Lee Bul (1999), Kang Ikjoong (1997) and Jheon Soocheon (1995).


Related Topics: Korean artists, biennales, new media art, sculpture

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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