Lee Jeonglok is a Korean artist who works with photography to make beautiful images of mystical events in elemental landscapes. An expert in the manipulation of his medium, he uses sophisticated time-lapse techniques and long exposures to stage dramatic and haunting interventions. In these new pieces this action takes place in the wild and sublime topography of Iceland.
In these large-scale photographs of waterfalls, rivers, islands and rugged mountains Jeonglok introduces clouds and clusters of neon-coloured butterflies. They hover and swarm to form balls and pathways over and across the terrain, suffused with a celestial light, contrasting the muted gloaming of the natural environment. They have a ghostly and ethereal presence, which is at odds with the tangible materiality of their context, with its evocation of icy water, extremes of temperature and unyielding rock and scree.
The construction of these images is a painstaking process. Jeonglok spends days in the landscape, setting up his scenarios. The pictures are composites, made from multiple exposures, which require great precision and patience: each butterfly is individually photographed and flash lit, the time of day must be right. These are, most emphatically, not 'photo-shopped' images, but share a commonality with the early, pioneering days of landscape photography. Like his forebears this artist lives, and is immersed, in the physical particularities of his hard-won subject and the technical challenges of making it seen.
Jeonglok calls up a spirit world, one that exists in parallel to the physical certainties of place and time. His delicate, precarious and short-lived butterflies flutter across the corporeal plain, coalesce for a while and move on. They are a metaphor and give us a perspective on our fleeting time span and preoccupations, relative to these epic spaces carved out over millennia, indifferent to, and unaware of, our existence.