Sophie’s Tree is pleased to present A Travel Journal, an exhibition of selected works from Hyein Lee’s outdoor painting series. This will be her second solo show in New York.
Hyein Lee has painted her surroundings in the open air, out of the studio. As a stranger, she travels to the location she chooses to paint and spends lots of time there, completing each painting in a single session. On the streets, inside a portable tent she made with felts (which almost looks like a soft sculpture), or inside the temporary house she built using boards and aluminums, Hyein quietly paints what she sees as she sees it. She sometimes paints in the dark or in a snowstorm and we can clearly see the traces on her canvas. Moving from Berlin to various cities in Korea and to New York, she has continued to work on this devoted, repetitive practice. The series include Empty Address (2010, 11 works in total), The Summer Midnight in Berlin (2012, 17 works), The Second Life (2012, 35 works), and A Suspicious Camper (2015, 22 works), among others.
Although it is a traditional method that the Impressionists used centuries ago, Hyein’s commitment to plein air painting is an unusual characteristic in today’s painting practices. The conditions given due to this method—limited palette, handy-sized canvases, unpredictable weather, and all kinds of interruptions or interactions with passers-by—bring unexpected nuances and stories to her works. These uncontrolled settings also allow the artist to be released from her obsession with making images and controlling the canvas. Hyein paints fast, translating a sense of time and place into rough, unconstrained brushstrokes. Then, the unfiltered outputs become recognition and documentation of the time and place rather than an ordinary landscape. Her small, on-the-spot paintings—some realistic, others impressionistic and even surrealistic—have their own incisive, uncanny presence. The works capture more than just scenes, reflecting certain social aspects that each location has—a sense of loneliness and isolation; of something intimate, indelible, mysterious and unknown.
Hyein Lee (이혜인) was born in Goyang, South Korea (1981). She studied painting at the Seoul National University, Seoul and participated in the Kunstlerhaus Bethanien Residency, Berlin and the Doosan Residency, New York. Hyein had solo exhibitions at various institutions including Daegue Art Museum, Daegu, Korea; Doosan Gallery, New York; Kunstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin; and Brain Factory, Seoul. She has also been part of numerous group shows including: ARTIST FILE 2015 at the National Art Center, Tokyo and the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (2015); LESSON FOR MUNDI VITA at Seoul City Museum of Art, Seoul (2014); TODAY’S SALON at Common Center, Seoul (2014); and BAD ROMANTICISM at Arko Museum, Seoul (2011). Works by the artist are held in public collections including the National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea and Daegu Art Museum, Daegu. She currently works and lives in Paju, Korea.