Categorising art made with technology can be tough. Time-based media isn’t the most felicitous phrase for a category of fine art. The film industry isn’t about art and the term ‘art film’ gets you into all kinds of murky worlds. ‘Moving image’ isn’t much better, but that’s what we use for the award category aimed at discovering and rewarding artists who create work that unfolds on a flat screen, whether by animation, film or other techniques. And this year’s winner of the Moving Image award, Sungjae Lee, perfectly highlights how fluid the concept of creating art in motion can be.
Take a look at the work Avyakrta: The Unanswered Question, below. It’s animation, it’s film, its an installation, its landscapes, and its sound. But what the artist is really after, he says, is to provide the view with the sense of the motion of time. A tall order, but he comes surprisingly close.
The Korean-born artist took a round-about route to getting to the Lumen Awards ceremony. He has he was ‘not very talented’ in basic art techniques when he was young. Instead, he says, it was fun to read comic books and watch cartoons and to try to copy them. “Without any real interest in academic achievements, I began dreaming of becoming a cartoonist.”
He tried and failed the entrance exams to university (multiple times, he admits), until he found the very first program for cartoon/comics/animation in Korea and got in. Study was interrupted by two compulsory years in the Army and he lost focus. Once back on track, he decided to try to mix traditional techniques with hew new skills – such as interweaving fine-art landscape images with animation of plants and animals.
The next step was to get out into the mountains, including a trip into a cave. “The experience was talking to me,” he says, “showing me that the view of nature does not exist in a specific way. It was changing and transforming all the time. I realised that my reception distorts and shifts the images based on distance and angles. I also saw how impermanent the thing I saw was and how uncertain my view was.”
Since that moment, he says, he’s concentrated on making slowly transforming abstract views out of multiple impressions of a landscape. He’s currently exhibiting his work in Utah, at the Southern Utah Museum of Art – take a look at the work here.
In his Lumen prize-winning work, which uses 10 life-size screens, he has created images of both real and imagined materials which constantly change their appearance for 12 minutes of playing time. Sometimes the images change in a rote manner, and other times, more emotionally. And one single, changing image is played across 10 screens. The image is played at different times, for 1 minute and 12 seconds per screen. These 10 images change their appearance while following each other; they match each other at times, other times they don’t. They are all fundamentally the same as one another, but they look different at each moment.
Hard to define, right? Having said that, there’s nothing quite like it – to experience this work is to stand in a whole new world.
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