Into the Blue: Exploring Lee Chae's Artistic Universe


Lee Chae

Lee Chae's canvases evoke vast skies, each brushstroke akin to a twinkling star amidst boundless possibilities. Born in 1989, this South Korean artist captures hues of blue reminiscent of dusk's gentle embrace and the serene majesty of a moonlit night, inviting viewers to traverse realms of contemplation. With anticipation building for his participation in the upcoming "The color BLUE" exhibition at Whitestone Gallery Seoul, let us delve into his artistic world through his own words.

Entering the World of Art: A Beginning Journey

“The color BLUE” Whitestone Gallery Seoul 2024

- Can you tell us about your artistic journey and what led you to pursue painting?

Lee: The art I pursue is aimed at enabling experiences and perceptions that are missed if not quietly observed. Art does not clearly present and explain the artistic subject it seeks to express. Even if there is a risk of misunderstanding and misinterpretation, the allure of art lies in the process of engaging with the experience that unfolds between observing and feeling the artwork.

Art must possess an inexhaustible essence to revive the essence of aesthetic experience. Even in the absence of specific subjects, it is not empty. It is about opening up the possibility of communication between myself and the artwork. It is about embarking on a journey that can delve into the depths of impressions rather than conveying concepts and meanings.

The Deep, Infinite Blue Spanning the Night Sky

Lee Chae “Afterimage #BA-IV-Y051” 2024, 117.0x91.0cm, Oil on canvas.

- Your works often feature a deep blue color. What significance does the color blue hold for you?

Lee: To me, the color blue embodies the unfathomable vastness felt when gazing upon the night sky. The deep, profound blue of the night sky instills a longing for infinity. It is the realm of heightened emotions and the time of tranquil dreaming. Night is the space of sensibility and the time of restful repose. It has the power to reveal the true essence of the human heart and emotions.

The blue symbolizing the night sky reflects my mind and spirit completely.

The Cycle of Expression and Appreciation Linked by Inner Infinity

“The color BLUE” Whitestone Gallery Seoul 2024

- What is your creative process like? How do you approach the canvas?

Lee: Longing arises from the desire to reach what seems unreachable. For me, art is about showcasing longing, much like the emotions I felt while gazing at the night sky. Longing can be expressed through acts of repetition. This is where the work begins. I visualize the longing felt in my heart onto the canvas. Then, I sketch out the forms on the canvas and delicately apply and scrape off layers of paint, aiming to cultivate the inner, multilayered emotional complexities. In this process, the paint leaves traces and spreads.

While I may plan the strokes of the brush, I also embrace the accidental spreading caused by wiping. For me, the focus of spreading lies not externally, but internally. I naturally indulge in and accept the spreading within. The spreading through wiping varies each time. The erased traces and untouched areas are delineated into realms of disappearance and persistence. The simultaneous recurrence of disappearance and emergence extends into the internal infinity of self-limitation, and the resulting overlapping encapsulates the cycle of artistic creation and appreciation.

Lee Chae “The Blue Flower [Untitled]” 2024, 112.0x162.0cm, Oil on canvas

The Source of Expression: Pursuit of Growth and Manifestation of Longing

Lee Chae “The Blue Flower [Untitled]” 2023, 24.0x 24.0cm, Oil on canvas.

- Nature plays a significant role in your art. What draws you to depict natural elements in your compositions?

Lee: I draw much inspiration from the growth of flowers and trees. Nature inherently embodies the pursuit of growth. For example, the germination of a seed absorbs nutrients from the earth to embody itself as a plant and condenses back into a seed to sprout again. Just as a tree firmly roots itself in the ground and stretches its branches towards the sky, the growth of trees knows no bounds.

I believe this infinite character of nature resembles art. My pursuit in my work is to fully capture the desire to express artistic inspiration, much like creating a blossoming flower or a branching tree branch, as if reaching out to touch the pulsating vitality of life.

Lee Chae in production

The process of reaching the unattainable

“The color BLUE” Whitestone Gallery Seoul 2024

- Could you share any specific inspirations or influences that have shaped your artistic vision?

Lee: The experience of inner immersion, sparked by flowers and trees against the blue night sky, is not something to be grasped intellectually. It's something that defies clear interpretation as an incomprehensible entity. Pursuing such imperceptible and spiritual aspects required finding ways to express the inexpressible and reproduce the non-material through material means. The repetitive acts that opened the path to inner immersion couldn't transcend their singular and coincidental phases.

To visibly confront this non-material process, I symbolically and abstractly depicted the blooming and fading forms (Blue Flower Series), and the process of floral petrification (Residue Series). These symbolic acts and forms serve as the embodiment of materiality and temporality in the process of recognizing and experiencing the inner self. It was the connection between the acts and thoughts that I sought to express through art.

Lee Chae “Afterimage #BA-IV-Y30” 2023, 130.5x89.5cm, Oil on canvas.

Lee: These recollected emotions transcend typical rational spatiotemporal perception, reviving the experience of relating to the forgotten inner world. I believe they play a role in reconnecting with the experience of forging relationships. It's the longing and anticipation for continuous progress between infinite inspiration and finite expression, the negativity of not being able to reach the inner world actually guaranteeing the longing for reaching it, a yearning for the allure of being drawn and eagerly awaited.

Countless Blues Expressed from Various Angles

“The color BLUE” Whitestone Gallery Seoul 2024

- Lastly, what are your thoughts on participating in the "The color BLUE" exhibition at Whitestone Gallery Seoul?

Lee: I hope that the artworks featured in this exhibition, "The Color Blue," will create multilayered shades of blue and enhance the emotional experience that blue can evoke. I anticipate that gathering different hues of blue in the gallery space will allow for encounters with inner immersion.


Chae Lee is a South Korean artist born in 1989. He graduated from Gacheon University's University for the Arts with majors in painting and Eastern painting. Subsequently, he received his master’s degree in fine art from Hongik University.

Chae Lee paints with oil on canvas, typically including his characteristic deep blue color in peaceful compositions. Though blue is often thought of as a 'cold' color, Lee interprets this shade as that of the calm of winter awaiting the promise of a new spring. Lee portrays natural elements of various sizes in his paintings, such as flower petals, branches, trees, and forests, in a rhythmical, abstract way.

Through Chae Lee's precision and the careful way he applies each line of paint, he projects ideas of 'meditation' and 'repetitive action.' Lee works in quiet concentration. With the utmost care, he wipes a thin layer of paint onto the canvas and, without leaving any unwanted marks, he slowly spreads the paint. By using this meditative process, Chae Lee spreads messages of 'peace' and 'healing' to the viewer in his artworks.

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