Sculptor Jaehyo Lee is a keen manipulator of resources. Lee works as easily with leaves and branches as he does with iron nails. He has created otherworldly works in stone that recall the extraterrestrial vision of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Karen: When did you start using natural materials?
When I was young, I was able to play with various materials from my father's factory, which produced brick and tile. When I was in university I started to add natural materials to my work.
Do you use similar tools and techniques for both natural and man-made materials?
The skills and tools follow the material that I use. The point is to understand the material sufficiently and then find the appropriate skills and tools.
What was the first structure you designed using natural materials? How has your design aesthetic changed since then?
I've always liked the sphere because its circular shape has no angles. It is a complete shape. All works of mine start from a sphere and then develop into another shape.
What is your creative process for designing and building a new piece?
When I start a new project or new work, I try to find a new shape and style every time, and find new and fresh items and inspiration during the process. I find challenges in my nearby natural materials or common objects.
What other materials would you like to work with that you haven't yet?
Do you look for the materials yourself, and then decide what to do with them, or do you design first, and then look for the right materials?
I find the material first before designing. I can't use enough nature material characteristics if the design comes first.
What elements do you try to highlight in your work? What do you like most about the materials you use?
I highlight to show the specific character of the material most. I mostly like wood.
Where do you draw inspiration from? Who are the artists or designers that inspire you?
I like " Land Art," and I like "Andy Goldworthy" works.
What is the most difficult part of designing a new piece?
The most difficult part is finding a new material to work to me. Finding new materials these days is difficult.
When you design a new installation, how important is the space itself? How do you make the most of a gallery space so that your pieces are shown in the ideal setting?
It is important to understand the space sufficiently before designing and producing the work. Even though the art work is perfect, it can't be attractive enough if the space and work are in disharmony. I care about the harmony of the work and space and lights mostly.
Translation by Alex Kang. This interview has been edited for clarity.
Our thanks to the staff of the Cynthia Reeves gallery in New York who helped tremendously to facilitate this interview. Mr. Lee was chosen as a featured artist by the gallery in 2010 and again in 2012. The Cynthia Reeves gallery is currently in transition, but you can see learn more about their past and upcoming exhibtions, as well as offsite exhibtions, at Cynthia-Reeves.