This artwork struck me when I was taken to a gallery by a friend. I usually love gallery outings with friends – seeing what interests them, and finding something new which interests me, is a fun activity for like-minded people.
I have other loved ones who stand idly in art galleries looking distinctly confused. They don’t ‘get’ the point of a lot of artistic pieces and it’s exhausting to educate them every visit on ‘why artists make things’ and ‘sometimes you have to think philosophically’.
What can I say? I keep a variety of people close to me.
So, I read the description that is usually displayed next to artwork;
“The trees in these photographs have been isolated from their environment by artfully placed backdrops of pristine white canvas. Lee’s interventions into the landscape highlight the unique form of each of the trees; the limbs and foliage are shown in crisp detail, and appear to have been flattened out, reduced to elegant graphic elements floating in space. The setting in which each tree grows can be seen extending beyond Lee’s blank backdrops. Each plant is shown paradoxically as both isolated from its context, and situated within its habitat”
Once I read the explanation I looked again. I found the pieces to be incredibly aesthetically pleasing but the true resonance didn’t hit me until much, much later when I’d had a few days to let the impression sit in my subconscious.
I was struck by the images because of what I felt they represented. On the surface I could see what the artist was doing – highlighting something which would usually go overlooked by providing it with a frame. Positioning the tree within its landscape but with a plain backdrop to showcase its uniqueness, Myoung Ho Lee captured the tree in a way that allowed the viewer to see the tree as a piece unto itself, while situated in its natural environment.
The metaphorical level of understanding that I drew from this work, making it well-liked, was more personal. I felt that this picture captured a metaphor for my work as a researcher and as a person conducting work in the public sector. The image, to me, displayed the importance of highlighting one aspect of a bigger picture, without losing sight of said bigger picture. To outline the focus of the work in detail while keeping the context separate, yet present. The artistry wasn’t in the complex design of the tree itself, but the simplicity in how the artist was able to showcase the tree without altering it. This, I realised, was precisely how I wanted to approach my current research project. Showcasing the reality without alteration, in a way that is so simple it strikes people.
This sentiment was summed up by my art-confused partner, who pointed out,
“anyone could have done that.”
The point is not that anyone could do it… it’s that only one person bothered to.