Hye Rim Lee is a Auckland based Korean New Zealand artist. Her 3D animation questions new technology’s role in image making and representation. Her work has developed and grown with critical exploration and conceptually evolving through representation of TOKI character in her ongoing TOKI/Cyborg Project since 2002. Her work is ambitious, expansive and conceptually and technically honed: each new project surpassing the previous genesis of TOKI.
Lee explores instinct, fantasy and sexual innuendo through mythological elements of identity, like a bunny. TOKI as a hybrid form of human and bunny in the vision of her imagination, she explores the contemporary pop culture and cyber trend between West and East in the challenge of mixing old mythology and new contemporary myth making.
Lee's photos and video installations tell a fantasy tale based on an intermingling of Eastern and Western popular culture and the study of new technologies and how they influence tradition. She is involved in critical exploration of questions dealing with modern visual culture from a complex point of view in which different approaches are used. The graphics used inevitably refer to the manga tradition, but are mixed with Western aesthetic ideals, thus giving life to transcultural characters who live in an imaginary world governed by testosterone. She has
promised a continuation of her challenge to what she calls the “phallic motivations” of dominant cyber culture, computer gaming, contemporary myth and animamix in the engagement with high technology and popular culture.
Her 3d animation project is a fantasy world that evokes nostalgia for childhood. The project, an artistic project “in progress”, is a reflection on how the female identity is perceived and used at a global level. Through an exploration of videogame dynamics, intended for a male public, and a fascination with new technologies, the artist has used a different outlook to analyze some aspects of popular culture, globalization and especially femininity in relation to the media. Through her numerous works she demonstrates that the exploitation of the female body is still very much a relevant question.
Crystal City 2008, Max Lang Gallery New York
Since 2012, her project has shifted into the ideas of Lucid Dream. “I seek to create my paradise in between the organic world of my childhood house and garden, and the inorganic cyber world of fantasy and dream. It’s a zone that exists between the analog and the digital, between dream and reality; and is encapsulated in my project title - Lucid Dream. TOKI becomes a shape shifter
in the Lucid Dream depicting a narrative, personal, and a story of my never ending and shifting identity. My art is not alienated from reality. The content of art is a powerful tool to expose my daily life and to let me dream about tomorrow. The content is evolving to dream about a better future. My work signifies the new experience as an alternative to the contemporary art and civilization based upon logical rationalism, through the world of fantasy encompassing illusion, imagination, dream and conceptual fantasy.”
Pink, mural 2013, The Gus Fisher Gallery Auckland
Over a sustained period of developing TOKI as a familiar figure she has become at once provocative, bashful and cute - a personification of desire, that toys with exoticism while skewing and reading of her merely as a sexual creature. TOKI has evolved into the character of the Black Rose Queen (2014) who resists the playfully passive readings of TOKI to date and connects to a more personal narrative, exploring ideas of isolation, oppression, lost love, hopeless, and a sensibility of imagination and darkness in the mortality of human. My work also
represents a direction which sees the artist slip into various personas, the contemporaneous demands of identity to transform, mutate working with collective desires as well as trying to rewrite it. Black Rose Queen depicts a diamond dreamscape for a journey of TOKI’s never ending shifting identity. A floating, shiny, glossy glass TOKI becomes a Black Rose Queen in Lucid Dream, a never-ending, ever-moving infinite dream, staged in a playful, childlike narrative story alluding to fantasy. Black Rose Queen is a birth statement for the glory of a Queen who is born in the process of transformation from escaping her tragedy to an infinite dream, but shines beautifully in floating dream and reality mix.
“Throughout my career I have been dealing with the significance of shifting identity. My work reflects on my surroundings, dealing with issues created by my understanding of, or confusion about, contemporary pop culture. I deal with cyber culture and cyber feminism by representing the character I have conceived, TOKI, as a vehicle for fantasy, sexuality, and identity. The paradise in my fantasy recollects all the memories from my childhood to adulthood, and the big shift from Korea to New Zealand, to New York, and back to New Zealand. Black Rose Queen lures the viewer into a zone between the digital surreal and visceral reality.”
Black Rose Queen 2014, mural, Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland
in progress 2020), Elements (2014-2020), Black Rose v1(2016), Lucid Dream, Black Rose, Glass Box (2014), Pink, Lucid Dream (2013), Strawberry Garden Lucid Dream (2013), Strawberry Garden (2011), Crystal Candy High Gloss Dolls (2010), Crystal City Spun (2008), Crystal City (2007-2008), Crystal Beauty Electro Doll (2005-2008), Obsession/ Love Forever (2007), Candyland (2006); Prince G (2006), Lash (2005), Powder Room (2005), Super Toy (2005), BOOM BOOM: super heroine super beauty (2004), TOKILAND (2003); The Birth of TOKI: hundreds and thousands (2003), TOKI/Cyborg (2002), Bunny Cubed (2001), and Hello TOKI ;) (2001).
Contemporary Art (MMCA) Korea, SeMA, Seoul, Korea, SOMA, Seoul, Korea, KMCA, Seoul, The National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taipei, Taiwan, Korea, Govett Brewster Art Gallery New Plymouth, New Zealand, Adam Art Gallery Wellington, New Zealand, The Gus Fisher Gallery Auckland, numerous collateral exhibitions in the 58th, the 54th and the 53rd Venice Biennale, participation at the Incheon Women’s Art Biennale in Incheon, Animamix Biennale in China 2011, Samsung Media Exhibition in Daegu 2011, The World Expo 2010 Shanghai, ISEA
2019, and artfairs including Basel, FIAC, Frieze, Armory Show, Basel Miami, Art HK. Shanghai Contemporary, Art Paris, KIAF. She won the artist residency: Ssamzie Space Seoul and ISCP New York. She was awarded numerous funding from Creative New Zealand, NZ Film Commission, and Asia New Zealand Foundation, and Asia Fund (CNZ). She was a Visiting Fellow at Auckland University of Technology in 2013.