Author Archives: Anton Driesen

Hyeji Lee at PILOTENKUECHE photo maeshelle west-davies

Hyeji Lee: understanding context and self

Growing up in South Korea, Hyeji Lee felt that she had to contain her emotions. Through art, she found a way to express and understand herself, as well as the context in which she moves. Video, sound, drawing, photographs, and found objects make up Hyeji’s conceptual practice of self-discovery and interaction with her changing environment. After Seoul and New York, Hyeji is in Leipzig for a residency at PILOTENKUECHE, where we sat together to get an insight into her inspiring practice.

Searching for herself

The moment of releasing expression is demonstrated in her series Explosion (2019). The work shows herself traveling with a suitcase filled with colored flags reflecting her caged emotions. The journey ends with an outburst of feelings expressed in an immersive installation. She always felt like she had to be polite “put myself inside”, with art she found her way to liberation.


After graduating in Contemporary Art at Seoul Women’s University, she continued exploring her artistic and personal journeys. She has an inner drive to keep exploring herself through changing settings, and so also discover the relationship between her unconscious and environment. When getting into a new space, these experiences from outside have an impact on her. Living and studying for nearly two years in New York, the smoke coming out of streets in inspired her: an ever-moving material in a solid and dense environment. This was then reflected in Uncertainty (2022), which is named after the fluidity and ever-changing nature of the smoke.  

Changing environments

Her practice ultimately stems from her innerself and her unconscious, but also looks at that same self as “another thing affected by the environment”. She thus uses herself as an experiment, searching for what new environments will do to her and her work. It is a reciprocal relationship between contexts, herself, and the practice she researches. By incorporating her environment through recordings and found objects, the context also directly influences the art piece. Her work explores the relationship between self and environment, and her work is ultimately the reflection of these two bordering worlds.

images by PILOTENKUECHE  or supplied by the artist

This results in powerful multidisciplinary pieces. The video work Steel (2022) is, in essence, a self-portrait, inspired by old drawings she made herself, showcasing her old desires to be strong. On top of that, it reflects on ideas of the industrial revolution and how steel, like humans, changes form through its context, through temperature.

Having just arrived in Leipzig as a resident at PILOTENKUECHE, we asked for her first impressions. The calm and silence of the city is something striking. As well as the way that nature is present: “People put nature into the city, but here it feels as if nature takes over the city”. How this new environment will shape herself and her work is something exciting to look forward to.

written by Anton Driesen

Follow Hyeji on her instagram

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