On the 26thof October 2019, I was lucky enough to watch the latest film work of Lee Lee Nam, Rise of Roots, followed by an exciting Q and A with the artist himself.

This event was held at the Tate Modern in London for the London East Asian Film Festival (LEAFF). The hour long screening contained a multitude of his work including a combination contemporary media art as well as juxtaposing modern-day imagery with old master paintings as backdrops, often bringing the paintings to life with moving leaves and falling snow. The films included themes of changing seasons and a representation of South Korea’s vast natural landscapes, such as mountains, rivers and bamboo trees, beautifully combined with gentle soundscapes of nature and calamity. Lee Lee Nam is often regarded as the ‘second Nam June Paik’, who is also a South Korean artist who experiments with video and installation, his artwork currently being exhibited at the Tate Modern. 

One of his films included a backdrop of an old Korean painting which resembled a small Korea village, and atop the painting were well-known art works, such as the Mona Lisa, that would drift into the screen on top of bullets. Within a couple minutes, the whole screen was filled with different paintings and sculptures flying in all directions on top of these bullets, creating a busy and vibrant image on the screen. When Lee Lee Nam was asked about his artistic intentions of this concept in the Q and A, he mentioned something called “borrowing masterpieces”. He wanted to create a crossover between western old masters and traditional eastern artworks and bring the light back to work that may have “lost its light”.

In conclusion, it is definitely worth anyone’s time to have a look at Lee Lee Nam’s films, especially if you are interested in getting an insight on South Korea’s culture. 

Yuri Watanabe