Situated somewhere between botanical field studies, studio portraiture and billboard advertising, Myoung Ho Lee (b. 1975; Daejon, South Korea) creates tree studies that transform nature's craft into a work of art worthy of careful study. The tree 'portraits' toy with ideas of scale and perception, crafting an image within an image that both highlights and obscures the relationship between object and photograph.
In his work, the artist photographs solitary trees against a constructed white canvas backdrop, isolating the tree from its surroundings, making ambiguous its scale, and drawing attention to intricate detail that might otherwise go unnoticed. After selecting a tree for its unique formal qualities and distance from other landmarks, Myoung Ho Lee constructs a temporary photography studio on site with the help of a large production crew and heavy cranes. In doing so, the artist's 'portraits' reference both traditional painting practices as well as the history and techniques of photography.
Using a large-format camera, the artist positions each tree and accompanying canvas in the center of the image, allowing the natural environment to fill the rest of the larger frame. The canvas defines the form of the tree and separates it from the environment, allowing the backdrop to become an integral part of the subject. Myoung Ho Lee's work includes diverse species of trees captured in varying seasons and at different times of day. After the photograph is complete, minor components of the canvas support system, such as ropes, poles, or assistants' hands, are removed from the image through minimal digital retouching. Small tears and folds of the canvas and shadows of the artist's helpers remain evidence of the performative and installation aspects Myoung Ho Lee's photographs.
The artist's work has exhibited widely across the globe, including solo exhibitions at the Goeun Museum of Photography, Zaha Art Museum, and Sungkok Art Museum in South Korea; Galerie Wouter Van Leeuwen, Amsterdam; and the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, Massachusetts. Myoung Ho Lee has been featured in group exhibitions at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; Triennial Exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia; and the Seoul Museum of Art, South Korea, among others. The artist's work is held in the permanent collections of National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul, South Korea, the Daegu Art Museum, South Korea; National Library of France; Museum of Contemporary Art, Salta, Argentina; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia; Statoil Art Collection, Stavanger, Norway, among others. The artist has received numerous awards and accolades, including the 2013 Red Dot Award from Communications Design, and the 2006 recipient of the Photograph Critique Award from the Committee of Photograph Critique. Myoung Ho Lee received his BFA, MFA, and PhD from the Joong-Ang University in Seoul, Korea, where he lives and works today.