Over a period of a decade, South Korean artist Kyu-Hak Lee has immersed himself in recreating paintings by Van Gogh in a distinctive method of mixed-media mosaic, which involves using Polystyrene foam, or Styrofoam strips as building blocks of his paintings. These constituents are wrapped in magazine and newspaper, which are then covered by a layer of hanji, traditional handmade Korean paper. The components adhere to one another on the canvas creating a mosaic-like assemblage that very much resembles the visible brushstrokes of Van Gogh.
Lee’s unconventional artistic approach is a social commentary on consumerism of modern civilization, and questions the intrinsic values of the millennial era. Using everyday materials as a gesture of upcycling, Lee uses Styrofoam as the base of his material as it best represents the vanity of contemporary culture. Styrofoam, whose fragility and flammability are subject to transience, is simultaneously non-biodegradable like plastic. The translucency of hanji wrapped over the layer of magazine and newspaper represents a reflection on human involvement in the world through the eyes of tradition, and the torn publications show letters and writing have lost their purpose as the fundamental tool for shaping tradition and modern society.
Born in Gyeongju, South Korea, Kyu-Hak Lee received a Master of Fine Arts from Chung-Ang University, and currently lives and works in Korea. He has since exhibited in Miami, Seoul, Paris, Zürich and Frankfurt, and his work are held in the Boghossian Foundation in Belgium, Busch Co. in Germany, Artist Pension Trust in England, Arteallimite Collection in Chile, and private collections in Monaco, London, New York, Paris, Miami, Shanghai, Geneva and Mexico.