Chan-Hyo Bae was born in Busan, South Korea, in 1975. After graduating in photography from Kyung-Sung University in Busan in 2003, he left for England, where he obtained a further degree from the Slade School of Fine Art in London. Since moving to Toronto to work he has shown regularly in the United States, the United Kingdom and Asia.
Chan-Hyo Bae focuses on the complexity of relationships between East and West, and the exacerbating influence of colonial imperialism. “As I see it,” he says, “Orientalism was born out of Western preconceptions about Asia as a conquered territory. This anti-Oriental prejudice suddenly made me aware of the chaotic, alienated state of my own identity – a confusion I try to show in my work. This notion is my guiding thread, as is already evident in the choice of pictures I drew on for my early photographic work.
I began by examining portraits stressing England’s power, superiority and spirit of enterprise: portraits of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, for example. As tools for asserting the power of the monarch, these portraits in oils are totally different from their Asian equivalents, which use watercolour and exude a greater impression of gentleness. This led me to opt for the same language as Western painters of the past, with its marked colour contrasts and forceful composition. My recent work on fairy tales deals even more explicitly with Western cultural prejudice.
This involved studying and interpreting the most representative of these tales, like Cinderella, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast. What I found was class-based social organisation and, above all, the implicit message that in order to be happy, the weak must submit to the order of things established by the strong. This is historically true, in that victorious Westerners have always reinforced their power by instilling their ideologies into those they have conquered.”
Sylvie Rebbot, curator
Text from the catalogue-book "Photoquai", co-edited by Musée du Quai Branly- Actes-Sud