Lee Kun Yong’s (b. 1942) is one of the most influential figures in the Korean avant garde movement and continues his provocative practice in diverse media such as performance, video, sculpture and installation. Known as one of the fathers of Korean performance art, Lee was one of the founding members of the influential Korean artist group Space and Time (ST Group) and a leading member of the Avant-Garde (AG Group) artist group. Lee's oeuvre starts from the fundamental questions on the essence of art. His explorations attempt to find the essence of art and its existence through perpetual experiments with the body and the space where works are exhibited and the relation between the works and the viewer. In this regard, Lee questioned how objects in certain situations can be altered to enter into a relation with the artist, the space and the viewer resulting in the birth of the artwork. His performative practice contemplates this balance between the natural world and human action and the number of permutations that can exist between the two.
It is for this reason that the artist’s works hovering over the space between painting and performance are interesting as each painting is the result of physical processes. While many painters sought to expand the medium of painting, Lee as well questioned traditional notions thereby placing himself in various positions in relation to the canvas with the resulting output a trace of the conditions of his body and its trajectories. In his major work series, The Method of Drawing, the artist stands at the back of a canvas and make drawings on a front, or move his arms just left to right to draw a heart shape using acrylic paints. The Method of Drawing series are the traces of his movements and trajectories, but not intentional works. Lee adopts a completely different method of drawing where the body becomes an autonomous component of a work.
While his performative gestures were ephemeral many of his works are documented in photos and videos works or in memories. In this way, the artist seeks to exploit the connection between life and art thus creating different uses of the traditional exhibition space as well relaying to the viewers that art is in existence in even the most mundane of every day activities. Along with the use of various medium in Lee’s oeuvre, drawings and performances distinctly share a close tie. His objects, installations, drawing, and performances are rather understandable as an extension of whole than each discrete works.
Lee participated in the Paris Biennale (1973) and the São Paulo Biennale (1979). He held his first retrospective exhibition at the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (MMCA) in 2014 and recently opening a solo exhibition at the Busan Museum of Art (2019). His works are in the permanent collection of the Leeum Samsung Museum of Art, Korea, the Seoul Museum of Art, Korea, the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art Korea, the Daegu Museum of Art, the Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art, the Tate London and the Rachofsky Collection.