Monica Hee Eun

Monica Hee Eun

By Arden de Raaij

“I like it when art gives you a strong blow to the gut” is what Monica Hee Eun says. Well that’s just what her work did to me. Big, textured, violent brusshtrokes depicting scenes that would be difficult to explain to your grandparent. Yet it’s the taboo and exploring of boundaries (when is art explicit? They’re just brush and pencil-strokes after all) that is endlessly intriguing. More than enough reasons to get to know the artist with the name of Monica Hee.

I do not mean to shock or violate or offend. For me it is about reflection, experimenting visually and to express in an uninhibited and clear manner.


Hailing from South-Korea, raised in Denmark and located in Thailand. How does that cultural background influence you and your work?

I was a baby when adopted from Korea, and I’ve lived in Denmark up until a year and a half ago. But yeah, I’ve been growing up in a country that has a long tradition of freedom of speech and press. I guess Denmark has been quite progressive in many ways. For example in regards to gender equality, social security rights and almost all educational institutes are free. It’s also the first country to legalise porn. But growing up in a Danish culture is not the solely influential factor for me and my work. Modern globalisation, easy access to tons of information and entertainment, especially European, American, Japanese and Korean art and culture has also definitely been a massive contributor. I’m referring to films, music, literature, paintings, comic books, anime etc.


Have you always been a creative kid?

I think every child is creative. All kids like to paint, dance, sing and play. They create and express themselves freely, before they are forced to fit into the system of society. I’ve always loved to draw and paint and I’ve had the will, plenty of encouragement and the privilege to hold on to that.

So when did some of your work start becoming so transgressive?(If I may call it that)

I started asking myself questions about moral and social boundaries, like most do, in my teens. That’s also when I got interested in art that challenged these boundaries and experimented with different or abnormal expressions. But it’s not my aim to make art that is transgressive. I do not mean to shock or violate or offend. For me it is about reflection, experimenting visually and to express in an uninhibited and clear manner.


Your acrylics seem to really embrace the ‘darkness’, more so than your drawings and sketchings. Why is that?

most of my black and white drawings (on my site) have a more flat comic bookish style to them, which can make them seem a bit cute or humoristic. In my paintings, the colours and structures and layers give a 3 dimentionality, more of a ‘reality’ feel than the drawings – in combination to the scenes/situations I create and also the fact that I prefer to paint on a black background, this I believe raises the ‘dark’ tone and mood

Is it difficult to get an honest reaction out of viewers of your artwork?

That’s a good question. You can never really know if the reactions are honest or not, can you? People lie all the time, especially because they often want to seem polite. Well, if not lie, maybe tend to moderate their comments or reactions. Unless of course they are really offended and start a rally. I guess that’s where you know for certain that the reaction is honest! No, actually I think it seems that viewers respond quite honestly to my work.

'Escapism I'
‘Escapism I’

Do you convey a message or prefer to let the work speak for itself?

I like my work to speak for itself. I don’t have a special agenda, a moral preaching or anything like that. And I don’t want to dictate how my work should be received or interpreted. But that does not mean I’m not open to a following conversation, question or discussion.

You like art that feels like a ‘blow to the gut’. Which artist/work is the last that gave you a proper gutslamming?

I watched Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void for the second time round the other day. I’m as blown away as the first time I saw it. The movie is like an imitation of being in an altered state of consciousness. Generally, movies has the advantage to give the best ‘gut slammers’ because that media have so many instruments to work and affect viewers with.

Another one has to be the music album Children of God/World of Skin by Swans, which only recently has made a great impact on me.


Could you tell us a bit about your life in Thailand?

Well, I’ve been living here for about a year now and I can’t remember when I last felt so healthy. I love the warm temperature, the food, the town I live in and the beautiful nature. I live with my boyfriend in a house with a studio where I work every day. I feel very fortunate, focused and happy here.

If you could fill a swimming pool with anything, what would it be?

Liquid opium. Wait. Is this a trick question?

What can we expect from you in the future?

More paintings, and experimental films.

About Monica Hee Eun

Monica Hee Eun / 18Tat (1982) born in Seoul, South Korea, brought up in Copenhagen, Denmark, currently lives in Thailand. Movies, music, books and graphic novels are major influences on my art. Beside...View profile