Created through performative and transient interventions in the landscape, Myoung Ho Lee’s photographs transform the common tree into a highly theatrical and mysterious entity. Since 2004, the Seoul-based Korean artist has photographed solitary trees by framing them against massive white canvas backdrops in the middle of their natural environments. Working with a production crew and heavy cranes to install a canvas, up to 60-by-45-feet in size based on each work, its support system is later digitally removed from the photograph, creating the illusion of a floating backdrop. Isolated from the environment, the tree’s contour, colour, and texture is heightened; every detail is cast in sharp relief against the enormous cloth. The illusory tension between the subject and its surroundings fluctuates—at one moment the tree’s sculptural qualities make it seem hyperreal, and at another the image appears to flatten into two dimensions.

Echoing this method of production, Lee’s photographs are presented as large-scale banners suspended from the ceiling in the Allen Lambert Galleria. They are framed by the architecture’s white structural limbs that branch out to support the arched canopy. Gently floating at ground level, the images faintly sway within this vast space, evoking the fabric of the large scenic backdrops that Lee used to visually separate these trees from their surrounding landscapes. This positioning underscores the collision of natural and man-made environments, suggesting the tree’s fragile existence against the forces of ecological and societal change. His photographs reflect a lifelong respect for nature and the influence of East Asian philosophy. Interconnected with the earth, the sky, and all life in between, as Lee has observed, “a tree is like a universe.”

Presented in partnership with Brookfield Place and the Daegu Photo Biennale. Supported by EY.

Curated by Bonnie Rubenstein