Nau mai, haere mai, welcome to eyeCONTACT, a forum built to encourage art reviews and critical discussion about the visual culture of Aotearoa New Zealand. I'm John Hurrell its editor, a New Zealand writer, artist and curator. While Creative New Zealand and other supporters are generously paying me and other contributors to review exhibitions over the following year, all expressed opinions are entirely our own.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Brick by brick

Jae Hoon Lee: Tomb
Te Tuhi, Pakuranga
3 April - 28 June 2008

Jae Hoon Lee is well known as a digital whizzo who effortlessly produces mesmerising dvds of transmuting skin or leaf patterns, or else lightboxes and still photographs of bizarre wave and cloud formations. Although it is his manipulation of images of natural forms that he built his reputation on, more recently he has been investigating cultural morphologies too.

His current show at Te Tuhi uses material gathered from a recent trip to Egypt. Part of it consists of a simple but beautiful coffin which emits a soundtrack of Egyptian music recorded at various festivals. Death, and its significance for Egyptian monuments and tourism, is seen as an effective provider of marketable images here.

Tomb has two main visual elements - vertical photographs based on manipulated photographed sections of the pyramids. They are richly detailed with layers of brick walls and other assorted surfaces –occasionally with scaffolding. Such strangely hybrid tower formations are too ungainly to be realistic. At first glance they could be giant standing figures (or huge blind heads) from Central Africa or even the Pacific.

They seem to be also peculiar columns of sharply angled, teetering temples stacked upon each other so that subsidence occurs below. Generating references to archaeological strata and vanished civilizations, and highly ambiguous, their appeal comes from shifting brick textures and patterns. As with his fantastical cloud and wave photographs, it is the amazing detail and acuity, more than overall composition, that makes his work so distinctive.

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