Lee Bae’s monochromatic practice is a formal and immersive quest into the abysses of blackness. Subtly blurring the lines between drawing, painting, sculpture and installation, he has shaped his abstract aesthetics across categories to grant the non-colour tangible depth and intensity. Until the mid-2000s, he worked exclusively with raw charcoal to create minimal and refined, mosaic-like assemblages of charred wooden shards or chunks on canvases, as well as larger sculptural arrangements of carbonised trunks. Obtained by burning wood and used to revive fire, charcoal offers a powerful metaphor for the cycle of life that has further inspired him to open his exploration onto the fourth dimension of time. While he has moved on to solely working with carbon black, a substance close to soot, Lee Bae’s latest series of pictorial works crystallises random elemental gestures, which he practices beforehand with Indian ink on paper, into thick layers of translucent acrylic medium resembling wax.
n 1990, Lee Bae was a classic starving artist, a 34-year-old immigrant from South Korea working in a squat in a dodgy suburb of Paris. Lacking money for paint, he went to a service station and bought