December 16th, 2020
Artist Monica Hee Eun creates some of the most haunting surreal pieces ever. A deep blend of Giger meets anatomy textbook images. Her work feels like it’s lifted out of your dreams after playing Quake or Doom. Her brush strokes hammer out the details and her use of tones highlight those details. Her style is dark and surreal. What you are seeing cannot be real, and the characters are trapped between worlds, ours and theirs. This is especially apparent with her backgrounds the distorted lines and brushstrokes and varying colours. It feels like it’s trying to break free and express itself.
Where are you from?
I was born in Seoul, South Korea and adopted as an infant to Copenhagen, Denmark.
How did you get interested in art?
I’ve enjoyed drawing and painting throughout my whole life. I think it was in my teens, and I became more aware of and interested in how art could influence other people and culture in general, as well as how it reflects the times when it was created. That sort of monumental expression and power appealed to me, along with the enormous gratification I found in having an unlimited realm of exploration, wherein I, with total freedom, could express often complex and ambiguous inner visions and thoughts.
How would you describe your art style?
I guess you could describe it as somewhat raw and/or explicit figurative art with surreal elements and themes revolving around the shadow or primal side of human nature..?
What does your artwork say about you?
My pieces are basically just the manifested visions of those parts of the human condition I find interesting to project. I am not sure what it specifically says about me, other than it reveals what intrigues me.
What do you want people to experience when they see your work?
Hopefully they will find it interesting. If it can provide a little food for thought in some way or another, I am more than happy. If people simply enjoy the work for its aesthetics, the brushstrokes and colours, that’s cool too. I don’t want people to have a certain experience, just like I don’t want them to have a certain idea of what it should mean or how it should be interpreted. I believe you can take much away or even ruin the subjective experience for the viewer, if the artist dissects the work. I don’t have any problem with telling about the main themes I deal with, but my personal and detailed elaborations, are in my opinion pretty irrelevant and sort of a spoil it.
Where do you find your inspiration?
I find much inspiration from books, podcasts, and from just reading and browsing the internet. Also from just observing myself and people in general. The human psyche is an interesting and inexhaustible source for ideas. The inspiration I draw from other artists I believe is more in regards of style and technique.
If you had a time machine, would you use it? And if so where would you go and why?
Of course I would use it! Who wouldn’t?! But I would only use it if I was able to travel back to the present again and if my travels wouldn’t affect or alter the present. I think I would go back to somewhere in the Upper Palaeolithic era to observe how we lived and functioned back then, socially interacted with each other and within our environment, and of course especially study how we initially created art. Maybe have a hallucinogenic cave painting session with a shaman.
I’d also like to go back to around the early 20th century and visit the surrealist painters, party a bit with those guys and pick their brains.
And of course I would travel to different times in the future and see where we are headed.
What materials do you use for your works?
I mainly work with acrylics on canvas. Recently I also started working digitally, with a computer tablet.
How would you describe your studio/work space?
Very simple, I guess. I work at home, so besides my work desk I occupy a wall with my canvas, paint, brushes and other materials scattered on the floor beneath. I try my best to keep it tidy. Don’t picture a Francis Bacon kind of studio.
What is your process from start to finish? From idea to final stroke?
My process can differ a lot. But often times when I have the rough concept, I do sketches, first on paper, and pick the best for the canvas. For a longer period now, I have found painting on a black-primed background works great for me. I like how the colours behave and come forth on a complete darkened background. From here, it is just a process of fleshing out the figure(s). I like some randomness in the process and I sometimes honour the small “mistakes,” that come from the first stages of painting, by perhaps enhancing or using them as certain features. I often like to keep it somewhat rough in regards to the brushwork, since I like that you can sense the physical paint texture. I don’t want to take away the raw energy of a figure, so I try not to “overwork” a piece, but rather close it a bit earlier than later.
What is the best thing you've heard someone say about your work?
I don’t think I can recall exactly what has been said, but I have had several great reactions and responses. I’ve had a person getting a tattoo of a drawing I did, another person told me that I was her favourite artist next to Giger and a writer I admire much responded to my work with a poem. But it is always an encouraging and inspiring experience to get to hear from others, that they in any way enjoy or resonate with my art. I’m also very humbled when other artists tell me they are inspired by my stuff.
When you sleep what are your dreams like?
They are often way too action-packed. There is almost always some stressful factor in play. Last night I woke up bathed in sweat from a dream, where I was running about in some abandoned neighbourhood with a baseball bat, getting ready to fight some post-apocalyptic maniacs..
Do you listen to music when you are creating? If so what bands or type of music?
It depends on what kind of mood I like to influence myself by. I’ve had so many different artists that I’ve listened to over time while painting, but I guess there are some staple bands for me when creating. Those would probably be Nine Inch Nails, Swans, Chelsea Wolfe, Deftones, Necro Deathmort, Salem, Ministry… But I can really enjoy many different music genres.
Lately, I've been listening to FKA twigs, which I guess is in the experimental pop genre, also the soundtrack from the anime film Ghost in the Shell (1995) composed by Kenji Kawai and the soundtrack from the video game Quake (1996) composed by Trent Reznor.
Often times, when painting, I also listen to podcasts and audiobooks as well as YouTube vids with interviews, talks and lectures or what not.
What's the biggest challenge with your work?
To execute my vision or idea as accurately as possible, with the best technical level I am able to perform at. My vision can certainly divert some or just get faceted throughout the painting process, so often it can be frustrating to go back and forth, having to alter, add or delete. You have to be willing to kill your darlings; a certain part or section in the painting, you’ve thoroughly been working on for a long time, but must delete because you realise it doesn’t look quite right, doesn’t fit in or compliment the overall motif. But I guess most, if not all, creative processes are just in themselves long challenging journeys of trial and error, self-critique and sacrifices along with trying to push your own limits within your ideas and technique.
Do you prefer Oreo or Fudgee-O cookies?
I have never had Fudgee-Os! But I would love to try some. If you send me a sample, I’ll send you some Danish royal butter cookies in return.