We have chosen our next Artist / Photographer in Residence – Welcome to Kyu Sang Lee, commencing his residency with us today.

The Artist Statement


Born in Seoul, Korea in 1993, Kyu Sang Lee grew up watching his family members engaging in creative elds of graphic design and fashion. In 2005, he moved to Cape Town at the age of thirteen and attended Frank Joubert Art Centre and later Michaelis School of Fine Art to study BFA.

While growing up in two very different continents, Kyu Sang Lee was exposed to the ideas and cultures of the East, West and Africa. As a result, his work showcases universal concepts and sentiments rather than pursuing a particular trajectory or style. His main interest in art has been the limitation of time one has in one’s life and how one should value one’s time that is given. By interlocking the concept of mortality with photography, which is also a time-based medium, he focuses on constructing the realm of the metaphysical or even the spiritual.

Kyu Sang Lee’s art is an interrogation of apprehension spurred by nite time and fate. While defining apprehension as an emotion caused by the eventuality of death, it brings us to the state of ‘dasein’, or the reason of being, where the self becomes more insignificant and the other person is not merely con ned as an ‘other’. Thus participation of viewers and their experience of the artworks are as necessary as the artist’s individual experience in this exhibition. Kyu Sang Lee’s artworks extend an invitation to the multifarious cultural spectrum, from Western classical music to post-modern, contemporary sound works; from philosophy and Russian literature to modern literature. His work questions the diverse tensions between a community and self, beliefs and subjectivity, memory and oblivion, and time and eternity.

Project Proposal


The aim of my current and future photographic project is about making photography like classical music.

Even though the sentence may seem highly vague or even ‘cheesy’, but what I exactly mean by making photography like classical music is having the quality of universality. The quality that can have influence on anyone.

During my studies at the Michaelis School of Fine Art, I was once very saddened by the fact that I could not truly engage in the artworks that are made by my colleagues. I could not engage in what they call ‘black art’ because the works are made by black groups and are consumed for their own ethnic group. There was no space for me to engage in that art as a Korean foreigner. I also experienced similar situation with arts about radical feminism from Michaelis. Even though I am on the side of feminists, those arts were mainly dedicated to women as in praise of fellow women audiences or to male audiences in order to mock their gaze upon female body.

For me, there is no ethnic or sexual group that I could ask for a support. And it is also true that I have been very pensive about what kind of art should I create, and how I should function as an ‘alien’ artist living and working in South Africa, the country of constant conflict.

During my recent trip in Europe, I saw a glimpse of a solution to make art that I can create and show in Cape Town.

Classical music is powerful because as a conductor Benjamin Zander said, it is for everyone. I am always surprised by the fact that audiences feel strong emotions from the sheet music that were written few hundred years old. Unlike most of the arts from contemporary era, classical artworks are actually simple but strongly emotional and yet so subtly complicated. And classical music does not have politics or sides.

My aim when my making my photographs are very similar to such style. When I was in Europe for travel, the works that moved me were the paintings by Rothko, Kandinsky, Monet and Hockney. They often depict existing scenery with people, or also paintings that are completely abstract. These master painters of Modern era has adhered to their own emotions when making their works.

I was astounded by the fact that I was deeply impressed by the works that can be argued as selfish: The painting of a boyfriend, abstract paintings spurred by own personal emotion and also impressionistic depiction of a pond. And yet these paintings have deeply moved me and stirred up emotions and I can even say I felt an urge to live on my life. I realised that exposing true self can move and influence people deeply. Although my objective is very abstract, my aim is to produce photographic works that provide life to a viewer. A photograph that is immortal. In order to achieve that aim, I will make art that is honest, which penetrates straight into one emotions, in a way that can influence people in a good way.

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