Hye Rim Lee

Hye Rim Lee

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

Since 2014 she has been rewriting her story in her new on going project Elements. Elements is a collection of images from her past animation projects. She reset the project by reconstructing the images, then rewriting a new meaning into them and bring them to a life of it’s own. Moving along with the Elements series she has started a project The Queens in 2020. The Queens’ first 3D animation is Black Rose color version animation, and it brings an installation spectacle consists of five synchronized wall-to wall, side-to-side screens in 3 walls depicting a space for Eternity of Mortal in chronos time. The animation depicts a diamond dreamscape for a journey of TOKI’s shifting identity in an infinite dream. The story unfolds a floating dreamscape from escaping her tragedy of the mortal to an infinite dream. The Black Rose Queen shines beautifully in floating dream and reality mix. The diamond is a center point in the scenes when the scene is reversing, and shines as eternal light. “I use symbols, colors and textures of the animation to illuminate the space and to tell the story of one’s shifting identity and her transformation process. Black Rose deals with identity shift and eternity of mortal. It is an infinite dream multiplied and mirrored with it’s reflection and refraction of one’s never ending searching for paradise. It’s a question for searching for eternity."
Lee has been working with 3D animation since 2002 but her creative outputs have included other forms of computer-generated imagery as well as digitally outputted photographs and 3d prints. Over the past eighteen years she has produced many bodies of work arising from her TOKI/Cyborg Project testifying to her unquestioned ability to produce complex works that are conceptually based, content rich and with a distinctive aesthetic. They include: Black Rose (work
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).
Lee’s work has been exhibited with more than 250 exhibitions worldwide in the major solo and group exhibitions at: Kukje Gallery Seoul, Max Lang Gallery New York, Waterfall Mansion&Gallery New York, Freight+Volume New York, Gallerie Volker Diehl Berlin, Monte Clark Gallery, Vancouver, MoCA Shanghai, Today Art Museum Beijing, MOCA Taipei, Taiwan, MoCA Shanghai, Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai, China, Trondheim Kunstmuseum, Trondheim, Norway, Fundacio Joan Miro Barcelona, Wereld Museum, Rotterdam, Starkwhite Auckland, Gow Langsford Gallery Auckland, San Jose Museum of Art, Museum of Modern and
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.
Her works become part of major art collection: SeMA (Seoul Museum of Art) Seoul, Govett- Brewster Art Gallery New Plymouth, Adam Art Gallery Wellington, Te Papa (The National Museum of New Zealand) Wellington, The University of Auckland, Ernst&Young, Saatchi & Saatchi NZ, Hara Museum Japan, Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art (MMCA) Korea, Byron Aceman Collection (BAC), Canada, The Wallace Arts Trust Auckland, and major private collections worldwide. Samsung New Zealand and Hyundai New Zealand sponsored Hye Rim Lee.
Lee also makes songs and performed in live with Jed Town for a performance from 2007 to 2009.
Performance 2008, Max Lang Gallery New York
TV NZ has commissioned Dan Salmon to make a 45-minute documentary about her work and life between New Zealand and New York, and the film crew had shoot her Berlin, Sydney and Wellington and Auckland New Zealand. The documentary, TOKI Does New York is premiered as a part of DOCNZ in 4 cities from February to April 2008.
Since 2013, she has directed performances showcasing TOKIs in live. The process of performance involves designing costumes, choreographing moves of performers, making installations and collaborating with photographers and musicians. She has developed an interest in synthesizing the totality of performing art through a unique combination of art, sound, dance, drama, and theater. She reinterprets her TOKI projects to create a provocative happening and drama allowing improvisations and spontaneity in her performances set in a social and public event.
Performance Four TOKIs 2013 (ArtDEGO, Auckland), Two TOKIs, 2015 (Studio Italiana, Auckland)
Hye Rim Lee interviewed Jeff Koons for Luxury magazine Korea at Koons studio in New York in 2012.
Hye Rim Lee was selected as Best Dressed 2015 for Metro magazine New Zealand.
Hye Rim Lee worked with Max Lang Gallery New York (2008-2010), Kukje Gallery Seoul (2006-2014), Volker Diehl Gallery Berlin (2008), Freight+Volume New York (2010-2013), VOHN gallery New York (2013-2016), Starkwhite Auckland (2003-2013), Gow Langsford Gallery Auckland (2014-2017), Gallery Simon Seoul (2016-2017). She works with Waterfall Mansion & Gallery New York (2011-now) and Venice Projects and Fondazione Berengo in Venice (2009~now).
Lee is a finalist of Wallace Art Awards (2016). She has BFA from Elam School of Fine Arts (The University of Auckland), majoring Intermedia, Time Based Arts in Auckland, and BM from Ewha Womens University, majoring Voice in Seoul. Now she is a lecturer at Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design, Auckland.
All the videos (except Black Rose v1) can be viewed at: http://circuit.org.nz/artist/hye-rim-lee