The pinhole camera is an idea that dates back to the ancient Greeks and beyond. The basic premise is that light entering through a tiny hole can display inverted pictures of the outside world in a darkened room. A typical working model of this lens-less camera features a light-proof box with a small hole cut in it, but this won’t do for French photographers Romain Alary and Antoine Levi. In their project Stenop.es they turn entire apartments into camera obscuras.
By turning rooms into pinhole cameras, they project the outside world onto the inside, blocking out all the light except for the small amount let through the pinholes, the city outside merges with the interior of the apartment. The effect creates a collage of tactile and projected, turning upside down buildings into surreal reflections of kitchen implements and planting a row of trees jittering on apartment walls.
Korean artist Jee Young Lee’s beautiful dreamscapes are living proof that you don’t need Photoshop or even a large studio space to create amazing surreal images. She creates all of these scenes by hand in a room that is only 3.6 x 4.1 x 2.4 meters and then inserts herself into the pictures. Some of these self portraits represent her own experiences, dreams and memories, while others represent traditional Korean folk tales and legends.
Since 2007, Lee JeeYoung shoots the invisible. Whereas traditional photography submits extracts of reality to our eyes, the artist offers excerpts from her heart, her memory, or her dreams. Restrained by the inherent limits of the conventional photographic medium, she adds plastic creativity and theatrical performance to it, in order to blow life into her immense needs of expression, and interrogation.
For weeks, sometimes months, she creates the fabric of a universe born from her mind within the confines of her 3 x 6 m studio. She does so with infinite minutiae and extraordinary patience, in order to exclude any ulterior photographic alteration. Thus materialised, these worlds turn real and concretise : imagination reverts to the tangible and the photo imagery of such fiction testify as to their reality. In the midst of each of these sets stands the artist : those self-portraits however are never frontal, since it is never her visual aspect she shows, but rather her quest for an identity, her desires and her frame of mind. Her creations act as a catharsis which allows her to accept social repression and frustrations. The moment required to set the stage gives her time to meditate about the causes of her interior conflicts and hence exorcise them; once experienced, they in turn become portents of hope.
Recipient of multiple artistic awards including the Sovereign Art Prize (2012), JeeYoung Lee is one the the most promising up-and-rising figureheads of the younger Korean artistic world. Following the huge success of her first solo show outside of Korea with OPIOM Gallery in 2014, her work was seen 500 000 times on Reddit in just 2 days and has been featured in the worldwide media from the USA to China (all international editions of the Huffington Post, NBC news, CNN international, France 3 National news, China Daily, etc.).
Lin Tian Miao‘s artwork combines household objects and human figures with a technique called “thread winding”: wrapping thread — or hair or silk — around an object until it is completely covered. The result is oddly tactile and organic, looking like something spun by a spider caught in a fevered dream. The use of string, Lin reveals in an interview with The Culture Trip, is partly for that very reason. They are organic and natural, and contain an element of mysterious strength. “The materials take on a life of their own,” Lin says.
When Chinese artists are discussed, it’s hard to ignore politics; Lin is no exception. As an artist — particularly a female artist — from a country that went through a rather recent revolution, her creations are rife with subtext whether intended or not. It’s difficult if not impossible to draw on the themes and symbols of family and femininity without also summoning the specter of their cultural context.
In a collection called “Mothers!!!,” pearls and webs of string become tangled cancerous masses on the backs of women, weighing them down. The pearls are beautiful but also destructive. In another installation called “Chatting,” several figures stand in a circle, heads bowed, seeking connection perhaps but resigned to the impossibility of it. To be fair, Lin has rejected feminist and political readings of her work. As an artist, she most likely wants to defy labels and have her work speak for itself. Still, it’s hard not to feel a little glimmer of dissent and rebellion in her art — arising organically, woven into the very DNA of it, strand by strand.