South Korean artist Jae-Hyo Lee uses organic materials like wood to create large-scale, sculptural pieces that favor both form and function. Focusing on geometric shapes such as the sphere, Lee somehow manages to transform tree trunks and hefty branches into perfectly formed globes, columns, and furniture-like objects.
“I make artworks with materials around me that I can manipulate. Usually those materials are from nature,” Lee, who lives in Yangpyeong with his artist wife Cha Jong Rye, says in a video profile about his work. When it comes to his wood sculptures, he usually forgoes expensive, rare trees in favor of scraps from cheap or abandoned specimens, explaining, “I believe you can get more of a ‘wow effect’ when you create a striking piece from everyday, common materials.”
To achieve the striking, smooth look of his sculptures, the 50-year-old artist engulfs each piece in flames until the wood is charred black. He then polishes the surface until the exposed wood pieces gleam brightly, contrasting sharply with the dark color of the scorched interior. Often displayed in museums, galleries, and the lobbies of high-end hotels, there’s an elegant, pristine quality to Lee’s organic work that belies the grueling manual labor that went into the creation of each sculpture.
Lee also makes incredible sculptural pieces from nails and wood: