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Born in South Korea, artist Lee Bae uprooted himself and relocated to Paris in 1989. He believed that immersing himself in a new environment would challenge him to look at himself more objectively. Displacing himself from the familiar surroundings of his home country activated an engagement with memory, which would become his main matière. An engagement with memory would elicit in Lee Bae a deeper union with the Self, which ultimately reacquainted the artist with charcoal as a physical, mental, and spiritual extension of memory.

Dissatisfied with the conventional slender sticks typically used in drawing, one day Lee Bae bought a simple bag of charcoal briquettes. Drawing with these compressed lumps of fuel brought him back to the very first time he started painting. He reconnected with the significance of the colour black in Asian civilization—the colour that expresses all colour. He was reminded of the soot-based India ink used in Korean calligraphy and recalled charcoal’s use as a purifying agent in Korean homes. Furthermore, he recognized charcoal as a powerful metaphor for the cycle of life and death.

Engaging with the formal and conceptual properties of this ancient matter, Lee Bae creates drawings, paintings, sculpture, and installation. This major solo exhibition, his first in Canada, will feature more than 40 recent works that employ a range of approaches across figuration and abstraction. The exhibition will also feature a large-scale installation that calls attention to the corporeality of his work and its ability to connect us to a soulful place. In this way, the artist offers visitors a moment to quiet the mind at this time of intense turmoil.

Curated by Cheryl Sim


Lee Bae (b. 1956, Cheongdo, South Korea) has had more than 40 solo exhibitions and numerous group shows in museums and biennials in Europe, Asia, and the United States, including the 2016 Gwangju Biennale. In 2013, he received the National Association Prize of Art Critics (Korea), and in 2019, he was named a Chevalier of France’s Order of Arts and Letters. He works and lives between Paris and Seoul.

PHI Foundation for Contemporary Art

451 & 465 Saint-Jean Street

Montréal (Quebec) H2Y 2R5, Canada


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