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Tree with pink blossoms in field with white backdrop behind.

Myoung Ho Lee and the Gorgeousness of a Single Tree


Korean photographer Ho Lee invites us to rediscover the figure of the tree as an elemental and beautiful archetype.

The collective imagery shares the tree as a living and wise being, which connects the terrestrial and the celestial plain with the underworld; a being that has rendered the world with inspiration and wisdom throughout the centuries. Buda freed himself beneath the Bhodi tree, under its shade he became one with all. The Celts compared an individual’s personality with a variety of tree species. Within Nordic mythology the Yggdrasil is the fern of the universe, which keeps us together and connects with different planes in the world and knowledge stems from its roots; Dan Simmons proposes a Sci-Fi version of Yggdrasil as an interstellar arboreal spaceship, which circles the universe accomplishing a final expiation.

Tree with no leaves in field with white backdrop behind.

Myoung Ho Lee (1975) is a Korean artist that recognizes the power of the tree and worships it, he is conscious about what it means for his culture and for the spiritual world in general. The connection to nature is something Lee experienced at a young age, his childhood memories include long walks appreciating the natural patterns of the landscape, and out of everything he saw, trees stood out the most. In his adult life, as a professional creator, Lee faced what artists refer to as the white terror: how was he to fill the empty space on the paper, canvas or negative, how would he give it a profound and revealing meaning?

Lee’s photographs consist of a blank canvas behind real trees, disconnecting them from the landscape and framing them in a space that allows for a full appreciation. Sometimes the photographs are during the day or the afternoon; they are rarely taken at night using artificial light. It is breath-taking to observe the branches’ fractal designs, perfectly accentuated and cut out from life. We have grown so accustomed to perceiving trees as a generic everyday form that our brain discriminates the foliage and few people are sensitive towards the aesthetic pleasure they produce.

Perhaps Myoung Ho Lee’s extraordinary labour will open the eyes of thousands of viewers, and will make us aware of the beautiful details that plague each corner of the cities, or our deepest dreams.

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