“Viewing my artworks is like being given a new pair of eyes, fresh and untainted by experience… to newly behold the familiar world with innocence and wonder.”
When I create my art through photography, I am interested in capturing more than just what is visible through the lens. My work is about maximizing the creative power of photography through my own interpretation of the visible world around me. The subject matter of my work is a close-up photo of the smooth surface of the abalone shell holding the mysterious and profound colors and patterns built by nature over a long period of time. I use digital manipulation to add vibrant colors and create abstract images quite different from the real images they represent. To me, photography is not the tool to provide recreation or compositional materials, but the intermediate tool that arouses the liberal imagination. The purpose of my artwork is to show people that sometimes even insignificant objects that might be easily ignored by most people can be interpreted differently and recreated as new visions by an artist.
Helen collects the shapes of nature from coincidental objects, such as the inside of abalone shells that are smooth and shiny. In this small object, she captures the landscape of the expanded world and the landscape of close-up objects becomes an unknown world filled with the movement of time and surrealism, such as eternity and dreams.
Helen Chung Lee is a Korean-American artist whose work combines photography and painting. She received her MFA degree in Art (Photography) from the University of Michigan. She currently lives and works in San Diego, California, and her work has been exhibited in many galleries in Korea, China, Japan, Italy, and across the United States.
Paradise Blue II
The unrealistic image that is created through Helen’s photography allows us to depart to a secret world, opposite of reality, where she desires to draw the viewer into her interpretation of a dream.
For Helen Chung Lee, photography is an important tool that allows her to uncover the deeper meanings and qualities of objects that may otherwise be hidden to the naked eye. She also believes that photography is not confined merely to record and representation. Her photographic work stems from her interest in presenting photographic images in ways that we do not typically expect from photography.
“To me, photography is not the tool to provide recreation or compositional materials, but the intermediate tool that arouses the liberal imagination.”
Helen Chung Lee's artworks are photos taken closely of abalone surfaces. They have mysterious colors, textures, and sparkles. Man-made, artificial products go against the essence of nature because they lack visual consistency. However, things that are found in their natural state possess intelligence and minute calculation of immense dimensions which is rarely, if ever, possible through human design. The colors and textures of the shells here form surreal, fascinating landscapes of strange and mysterious beauty. They are only made possible by the cumulative and long-term effects of water, sunshine, and wind.
For Helen Chung Lee, photography makes it possible to dream, while awake, through objects. A photograph is not an object in itself. It is 'a photographic image' in relation to the object. Thus, it can be said that in reality, there is no subject for photography that is not transformed by a photographer's point of view. Therein lies the beauty of photographic art.
It is the epic and dynamic creativity of Nature itself that she has captured in these photographs.
Helen has found hidden meanings of objects, analyzed them in her own way, and expressed them freely through the medium of photography.
Photography as art comes into bloom when it helps us eliminate pre-existing knowledge and attitudes of the photographic subject matter. Helen Chung Lee's artworks seek to do nothing less than precisely this.
The mother-of-pearl colors of abalone shells possess mysterious, abstract, and metaphysical energy. The fierce, provocative, romantic, dreamlike, and fantastic atmosphere of energy sometimes contradicts itself, as it changes to become a photo that looks like a landscape painting.
The strangeness of the objects in these works does not lie in them but is created by variation of time and distance. This distance is a key element to the artistic representation. She portrays images that were previously considered hidden by first capturing familiar objects through close-up photography and then transforming them into beautifully unfamiliar scenes with her imagination. She has found hidden meanings of objects, analyzed them in her own way, and expressed them freely through the medium of photography.
Prize Ribbon (1)
Describe your image
In the abalone shell that is used as the major material of mother-of-pearl, there are strong and radiant colors that reflected, depending on the wavelength of light. By minimizing artificial touch, Helen makes our sensitivity permeate into an infinite cosmic panorama, even though it is the small and trivial shell of an abalone.
These works have romantic, evocative titles like ‘Pearl of Twilight,' ‘Peppermint Mountain,' ‘Paradise Blue,' ‘Moonlight Sonata’, and ‘Island of My Heart’ which do not tangible images so much as dreamy moods. Her artworks at first give the impression of representing realistic places, but what they actually do is make us see fantastic imagery in an ordinary abalone shell. It is a sort of dreaming landscape.
Helen’s artwork at first gives the impression of representing realistic places, but what they actually do is make us see fantastic imagery in an ordinary abalone shell.
Helen Chung Lee dreams of her dream and then brings it to reality through photography. Mechanical photographic images represent what already exists in the world. However, Her photographic images begin as ordinary objects and then become vast scenes full of abstract and visionary images.
Helen’s artwork brings to a world of abstract images by adding imagination and poetic sensibility to the existing beauty of elements in nature. She creates beauty by using the natural properties of various objects: the shapes, colors, and textures, which already exist.
Photography as art comes into bloom when it helps us eliminate pre-existing knowledge and attitudes of the photographic subject matter. Helen Chung Lee's artworks seek to do nothing less than precisely this. We all have the capability to transcend such preconceptions while viewing familiar objects, but in daily life, our eyes are rarely able to do so.
Helen’s artwork exposes unrealistic colors to attract a feeling of unfamiliar uneasiness instead of calmness.
The colors and textures of the shells shown here form surreal, fascinating landscapes of strange and mysterious beauty.
Helen has a rare ability to see the aesthetic value in ordinary objects, from her unique desire to see sensibility and freedom in the artistic world. Here, a photo attempts to reach a new level of existence, escaping from the illusion of reality.