Jae Hoon Lee


NameJae Hoon Lee (he/him)
Country of BirthSouth Korea
Place of ResidenceTāmaki Makaurau Auckland
Dealer GalleryRobert Heald Gallery
ArtformVisual arts
Decades Active2000s, 2010s, 2020s


Jae Hoon Lee is a contemporary artist who describes his photographic and video artworks as “time-based” for the way they stitch together multiple images and moments within a single work. He has exhibited widely both in Aotearoa and internationally from the early 2000s onwards.

Lee was born in Seoul, moving to the United States at the age of 19 to study at the San Francisco Art Institute. In 1998, he moved to Aotearoa and studied at Elam School of Fine Arts, graduating with an MFA in 2003 and a Doctorate of Fine Art in 2012. Having lived in Aotearoa, the United States and Korea, Lee describes himself as a “cultural wanderer” and many of his works display a sense of wonder at the striking landscapes and natural phenomena encountered in his travels. Lee has said:

I believe I am leading a nomadic existence through relocating myself between different cultural territories. In order to assemble an image bank that refers to my experience as a cultural wanderer, I have mainly been collecting source materials in New Zealand, Korea and other countries I have recently visited.

The hallmarks of his works are crisp, clear images (which has been described as a “hyper-real” aesthetic), digital manipulation executed with technical precision, and an often “monumental scale” that brings “the viewer closer [to] the overwhelming sensation of experiencing geological forms, and blur the boundary between photography and installation.” Virginia Were, writing in 2007, said:

The fact he now belongs to two different cultures, whose philosophies and ways of seeing have the potential to collide and ricochet off one another, underpins his practice on a formal and conceptual level, further adding to the element of surprise and discovery that makes his work so compelling, not to mention sensuous, to look at and listen too. For Lee, both sound and images are important and the two are often combined in his installations.

Geographical formations and excerpts from the natural world — light-tinted clouds, veined and speckled leaves, thick blankets of snow — feature in Lee’s work. The manipulation of these images encourages the viewer to appreciate the formal qualities of the natural world, such as cool shadows on crisp white snow, and the texture of ancient rock formations. The looming presence of technology runs through Lee’s work, with works exploring the cloning and glitches that can emerge in the use of editing software, and others that use flatbed scanners to record the changing details of his own body.

Lee has also embraced the portable nature of these image-capture technologies. His series Leaf (2003) saw him gathering and scanning leaves over 12 months, using the resulting image library to create a continuous looped video — that both draws our attention to the leaves’ detail while also removing us from a concrete sense of space or time. Writing for the NZ Listener, Tessa Laird described the work as “a green geyser of morphing species.”

Lee’s work has been shown widely in Aotearoa, as well as internationally. In 2023, Lee, the eternal traveller, told the NZ Herald that he would love to see Earth in its entirety from space during his lifetime, “even from my deathbed”.


Key works / presentations

2023 — Who can think, what can think, Te Tuhi, Tāmaki Makaurau, group exhibition

2021 — bridge of now and here, Sarjeant Gallery, Whanganui

2015 — Stranger in strange land, Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Ōtepoti

2015 — Spring 1883, The Establishment, Sydney, presented by Robert Heald Gallery

2015 — reGeneration3, Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne, group exhibition

2011 — El Barroco de Aotearoa, MUCA Roma, Mexico City, group exhibition

2010 — Nomad, 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney

2010 — Annapurna, Christchurch Art Gallery, Worcester Boulevard billboard

2010 — Present Tense: An Imagined Grammar of Portraiture in the Digital Age, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, group exhibition

2008 — Jae Hoon Lee and Daniel Crooks, IMA Brisbane, Brisbane, group exhibition

2004 — Break/Shift, Govett Brewster Art Gallery, Ngāmotu, group exhibition

2004 — Greenhouse, Frankfurter Welle, Frankfurt, group exhibition

2004 — Asian Traffic, Gallery 4A, Sydney, group exhibition

2003 — Pressing Flesh, New Gallery, Tāmaki Makaurau, group exhibition

2003 — Electric Power, Han-Jeon Plaza Gallery, Seoul, group exhibition

2001 — Alive!, Adam Art Gallery, Pōneke, group exhibition

2001 — Flesh and Fruity: New Artists 2001, Artspace, Tāmaki Makaurau, group exhibition

A full artist’s CV can be viewed on the Robert Heald website

Key awards

2018 — Artist in residence, Tylee Cottage artist residency, Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua, Whanganui

2014 — Artist in residence, International Studio & Curatorial Program, New York

2014 — Artist in residence, Cemeti Art House, Yogyakarata, Indonesia

2013 — Paramount Award Winner, 22nd Annual Wallace Art Awards

Related entries

Last updated: 5 March 2024 Suggest an Edit


A print of computer keyboards in a cross shape inside a Telecom phone booth.

Jae Hoon Lee, Salvation, Telecom phone booth, Lorne Street, Tāmaki Makaurau, 2007

Courtesy of Jae Hoon Lee

Newspaper clipping with photo of the artist leaning against a telephone booth with their computer keyboard artwork displayed inside.

Janie Smith 'Old computer key to art inspiration', Central Leader, January 25, 2008

Andrew Clifford, 'From the collection', University of Auckland News, Vol. 38, No. 11, June 20, 2008

A large expanse of land near a river is worked by people in bright blue and orange clothing.

Jae Hoon Lee, Varanasi, India, 2009

Courtesy of Jae Hoon Lee

Two men in tramping gear sit in a hut while their things dry around them and they look at information.

Tramping around Arthur's Pass, 2017

Courtesy of Jae Hoon Lee

A large silvery photo of tree roots stretches from floor to ceiling in an art gallery.

Jae Hoon Lee in Who can think, what can think at Te Tuhi, 2023

Courtesy of Jae Hoon Lee

A large photograph of tree roots sits above a stairwell with a glass banister.

Jae Hoon Lee in Hit the Wall at The Dowse Art Museum, 2010

Courtesy of Jae Hoon Lee