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SEOHYUNG LEE - exploring her discomforts through her art

Philadelphia, PA / United States

Born and raised in Seoul, Korea, Kay is an artist and educator based in Philadelphia. Kay explores her discomforts - of her own body, gender identity, sexuality, religion, culture and her surroundings. Kay makes paintings, drawings, sculptures, and VR installations of hell. Her works have been shown in Philadelphia, St. Louis, Paris, Los Angeles, Seoul, Gimpo, Seongnam, and Gongju.

Seohyung, you were born and raised in Seoul, Korea, but you are currently based in Philadelphia. Can you please tell us all about your journey into the art world?

I came to the US for school. Grad school brought me to Philadelphia. The past ten years have been a blur, and I don’t know if I can call it a journey into the art world. For me, it has been only six months since I started calling myself a professional artist. I think you enter the “art world” the moment when you decide to, and I don’t know if I can say if I have at all yet. I am still figuring things out.

Your work is focused on the exploration of your identity but also your experiences and discomforts. What is the message behind your art?

There is no message really. There is no meaning either. It is a scape - of open wounds, memories, frustrations, agony.

What is the main inspiration behind your work?

I first started working on this series when the insurmountable anger and sorrow surrounding George Floyd’s death was still very much present. One evening, I saw the news about the wildfire (which was caused by a gender reveal party) in California. Then in January, the Capital was stormed by Trump's supporters. And a bright pink concession stand in the middle of the angry mob. The ridiculousness of it all made me realize that we are in hell. I needed to document this colorful chaos and the occasional moments that make us laugh in the midst of all the mess.

Your current body of work is telling a story. There are so many dialogues and scenes involved. Can you describe your process?

I don’t plan things - everything in my work was put there spontaneously. I don’t plan the composition, content/context, colors etc. It is like mapping my internal world, lined with fragments of memories and traumas. Some objects and creatures are representations of specific people and moments in my life, but even those happen within moments. I don’t really think about what each thing means to me when I’m putting them there.

What does your art do for you?

Art feels like a prayer to me. I find myself kneeling in front of paintings while working. It's a spiritual thing to do.

What has been the most exciting moment of your art practice so far?

The entire summer of 2021. The best moments are when I’m soaking things in and releasing them on paper/canvas. I was out of school, hanging out with friends, eating delicious food and doing all the silly things. But also doing some really labor-intensive projects. This summer changed my practice.

What are you dreams, plans and goals?

I want to peak at a young age for a very short period of time, buy a cottage and live there with my cat.

What is the number one advice you’d give to artists who wish to transfer their stories on canvas and build a strong body of work?

Painting is an emotional thing to do. Think about how terrible the world is and bawl your eyes out while painting. Dance and party while painting. Stay up till 5 in the morning and paint until the moon goes red and the birds start chirping. Get absolutely trashed and talk shit about everything with your friend while painting. Get really messy and gross. Do the opposite of what your brain tells you to do and let your brain get really angry.

Find out more about Seohyung Lee through or follow her journey on Instagram @kayseohyunglee.


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