Sydney-based Korean artist, Hyun-Hee Lee presents Nocturn, her latest body of works, featuring a selection of recent paintings and a large scale textile based installation…
Exhibition Opening: Wednesday 3 May from 6-8pm
Night is a time for dreaming, for wishes, for hope. The quiet of evening is a special time for artist Hyun-Hee Lee to reminisce and to write about her feelings and thoughts, for a meditative ritual of letter writing; nocturnal outpourings of longing and loss and prayers for her mother and her daughter. Words that are sometimes sent, others never…
Her Nocturn body of paintings with their cryptic intricate calligraphy and veiled overlays perpetuates her ongoing focus on cultural and family connections and memories, on spiritualism and the continuum of life.
The latest paintings were prompted by a sound letter, a one-off cassette recording of her daughter’s personal message and piano playing sent fifteen years ago when Hyun-Hee, living alone in Australia, was separated from her then seven year old daughter who had remained in Korea with her father.
The artist came across the cassette tape that she had secreted in a personal ‘box of treasures’ when clearing out a cupboard last year. Her daughter, who joined her mother permanently in Australia at age ten, still plays piano as does Hyun-Hee who may have studied music as a vocation had she not chosen visual arts. The piano played in the recording eventually came to Australia from Korea with her daughter and is still in the artist’s home. Listening to the long ago recording evoked nostalgic emotions and maternal longings around her role as a mother and her relationship with her own mother.
The vicissitudes and relationship of three generations, of three women’s lives, have come full circle in Nocturn. The paintings are each based on different letters Hyun-Hee wrote to her mother and to her daughter in response to receiving the tape and hearing her daughter’s voice and message when introducing her piano performance of familiar musical pieces, both Western and Korean. They respond to letters written over many years – often never sent, but retained as treasured keepsakes of the artist’s private meditations and emotions.
Each Nocturn painting contains two stories – past and present; the heightened emotions of the present when re-discovering the tapes are overlaid as looser gestural marks onto the sentiment implicit in the letters from the past and expressed in a colour palette either dark and moody or light and optimistic that is expressive of those feelings.
An Infinity series of nine works is dedicated to Hyun-Hee Lee’s daughter. Each small painting is in a deep rich maternal blood-red and stitched with Korean characters for the hopes, qualities and aspirations that she has for her: Love, Faith, Hope, Wisdom, Peace, Prayer, Diligence, Innocence and Honesty. Silken threads left trailing suggest the ties that bind mother and daughter across time and oceans.
Night Journey, an overarching ten-metre-long painted silk suspended canopy suggestive of protection, care and safety is similarly dedicated to the artist’s mother and is related to the paintings Long Journey and Lonely Journey. Hyun-Hee Lee looked at the night sky when missing family – looking for family in the same starlit sky that is their celestial canopy too. But poignantly, as with memory – you can’t touch …
Hyun-Hee Lee has a Bachelor of Fine Art (Honours) from the National Art School. She was awarded the Bird Holcomb Foundation Honours Fine Art Scholarship on the basis of her BFA third year art practice in 2010. In 2012, Hyun-Hee was the winner of the John Coburn Emerging Artist Award, under the auspices of the Blake Prize. In 2015 she also completed a Master of Fine Arts (Research) from the University of New South Wales Art & Design, UNSW.
Hyun-Hee has received numerous accolades including a Judges Special Mention in the 2016 Hornsby Art Prize and second prize in the 2016 KAAF Art Prize organised by the Korean Cultural Centre in Sydney.
Her work can be found in numerous public collections including the: KAAF collection; the Middlebury College Museum of Art collection Vermont, USA; the Egon Zehnder collection, Sydney; the Grafton Regional Gallery JADA Collection; the Blacktown City Council collection; the Australia Council collection; the NAS collection and many private collections both within Australia and internationally.