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Artist breathes new life into classic masterpieces

The image of Van Gogh comes alive in his signature self-portrait with a pipe. The legendary painter blows a puff of smoke, from which an image of him peacefully resting in a field emerges.

The digitally rendered image of Van Gogh was made by Korean artist Lee Lee-nam, who has been digitally transforming masterpieces of Western and Eastern art into an animated video art form.

Lee, a widely loved media artist in the Korean art scene, has been invited to give a lecture on his art world at the Herald Design Forum 2015 on Nov. 10. 

Artist Lee Lee-nam (Herald Design Forum)
Artist Lee Lee-nam (Herald Design Forum)

Lee, with a background in sculpture, started making animated media work in 1997 in order to overcome the limit of motionless sculptures. He said previously in an interview that media art allowed him to visualize his ideas and imagination better. The first “live sculpture” was a short video work, showing how a lump of clay is made into a head sculpture.

He studied media art and animation technology seriously to take his experiment with media art further. He started making animated paintings and borrowed images from masterpieces and reinterpreted them to make his art more approachable to the general public. 
“Light Falls on Every Individual” by Lee Lee-nam. (Gana Art Center)
“Light Falls on Every Individual” by Lee Lee-nam. (Gana Art Center)

“I wanted people to feel interested in my art and stand longer in front of my work,” said Lee, in an interview with the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art for the Korea Artist Prize exhibition in 2011.

He held a solo exhibition at Gana Art Center last year, presenting rendered images of old Western and Eastern classic paintings such as Vermeer’s “Milkmaid” and Gang Se-hwang’s landscape painting.

Lee added sound and made the milkmaid in Vermeer’s painting move so that viewers could see her pouring milk from the jug.

His digitally transformed masterpieces have been featured in corporate commercials and stage art. Since his first exhibition in China in 2007, many works following his techniques have been created. Recently, the Chinese premier asked him to create a work of media art to promote the city of Weinan.

Lee opened an art center named after him Wednesday in Damyang, South Jeolla Province. He is expected to hold solo exhibitions at the Korea Society in New York in November, along with more shows in Qatar, Beijing and France in 2016.

By Lee Woo-young  (wylee@heraldcorp.com)

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