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  • Writer's pictureHakan Öztunalı

The Shapeshifter w/ Monica Hee Eun

Routinely it's an impetus or the basic instinct that drives Monica Hee Eun's burst of energy to designate uncanny illustrations. Monica articulates her expanded mood with acrylic. Inspired by primordial nature itself, she has a mission to uncover concealed and repressed features of humans.

Mortality blessed the creatures animated and inanimated with the shapeshifting ability. We are shadowy figures lurking around in unknown forms. Do not tell me you do not hold anomalous feral spirit inside that pokes your shoulder to do something. Peek a boo! I see you!

Before heading to the interview, I would like to offer my thanks to dear Monica Hee Eun for unveiling shrouded background artistry.

(Courtesy of Monica Hee Eun)

Monica Hee Eun
(Courtesy of Monica Hee Eun)

Monica Hee Eun
(Courtesy of Monica Hee Eun)

Daemon 2
(Courtesy of Monica Hee Eun)

Daemon 1
(Courtesy of Monica Hee Eun)

Monica Hee Eun
(Courtesy of Monica Hee Eun)

Greetings Monica! Pleasure to have you on my realm. Could you introduce yourself to our audience for those might not familiar with you yet?

Monica: Thank you very much for having me!

My name is Monica Hee Eun and I am a Danish/Korean painter, living in Copenhagen, Denmark. My art revolves a great deal around the shadow side of the human psyche. I attempt to visually give form to our fundamental, primal drives, especially those of the aggressive, power possessive and pleasure-seeking nature. Most of my motifs are of feral-looking female beings that you could call personifications of these primal forces.

Concurrently making analog and digital artistry sounds appealing, but how do you manage and preserve your skills and sensation whilst adapting to digital?

Monica: For me, painting digitally is actually not that different from analog. Especially since the digital painting apps have become so incredibly good with mimicking paint brushes, ink brushes, pencils and so on. So you could say that I am almost practicing analog, when I am also practicing digital. I have also been painting for quite a while now, almost 20 years, so hopefully, it will be difficult to lose the tactility of analog painting, even if I was to take a long break from practicing.

Please correct me If misunderstood, it seems that you draw your personas in many different aspects. How many Monicas resides with you, do you eavesdrop what they whisper?

Monica: Although many of the characters / figures / personas I paint might resemble me, they are not solely about me.

They are rather meant to represent the general person’s shadow side. The reason why the characters resemble me more than random people, is mostly because of the convenience of having myself as visual reference at all times, but perhaps it also has a bit to say that I feel the need to take the starting point of myself. If you want to allude something that has a bit controversial or taboo qualities, like the primal drives, it is probably good to use yourself as an example first and foremost. I like to think that we are all somewhat familiar with the whispers of these personas, or rather personifications. They are the inherent voices within, that beckons us to seek self-gratification, to be assertive and aggressive, to acquire personal gain and domination.

I don’t believe that we should ignore these voices, since they tell us useful things about ourselves, but only follow them with great consideration. Assertiveness and aggression, is not inherently bad. You want to be moderately assertive to reach your goals in life, just like you also want to have some power to influence your environment. If not, you become an easy push-over, you will never reach your goals and in the end not have any say in your own life. On the other end of the spectrum, assertiveness can get out of hand, where you become too domineering and will become ostracised and/or destructive to yourself and your surroundings. Like with everything, it is a balancing act of how much you should eavesdrop on the whispers and follow them.

Primal Femal 2
(Courtesy of Monica Hee Eun)

Dark Undertow
(Courtesy of Monica Hee Eun)

(Courtesy of Monica Hee Eun)

As you are influenced by feral energy, the very first discourse echoes in my mind is that the hunter and the hunt duality. Hunters may hunt for survival purposes, but eventually there are others who hunt for arbitrary purposes as well, it is a playground open to everyone and everyone is disguised in one way or another. Could you tell me how did you transpose that type of mentality for your artwork and the way you control, behave the perils, when instincts about to burst uncontrollably?

Monica: That is a tricky question, that I am honestly not completely sure how to answer. You can perhaps say that I transpose the mentality of the feral energy, with my personification process within the painting.

I have been fascinated with the concept of personification for some time. This is certainly not a new concept. Ancient cultures personified natural elements, vices and virtues and other abstract ideas, which I believe they also did to try and understand themselves and the world they lived in - perhaps to overcome their fears, empathise with other humans and living beings, shape their values, beliefs and morals. To follow up on your discourse; to me, it is not so much a question of showing wether the hunter hunts with a certain purpose in mind. I am more interested in showing an embodiment of the concept of hunting.

How do you interpret the zeitgeist of the current epoch?

Monica: It seems the zeitgeist is very much influenced by our technological advancements, our focus on environmental challenges and our social and cultural shifts. I think we have seen a whole lot of themes in art that address identity and gender, challenging conventional norms. We have social justice and activism, which is also vey prominent. Environmental concerns and globalisation and migration too. And lately digital and the genre New Media has gotten very visible, especially also with NFTs and AI coming into the game.

Do you remember the fateful moment you noticed your talent, and if, what was the drawing about that made you ecstatic?

Monica: I am not sure if I really noticed my talent at a certain point in life. I guess it just sort of came about with the help of some contributing factors. I was for example very lucky to be praised and encouraged a lot for my drawing, when I was a kid, especially by my parents. I had a natural passion and interest, so it was also not difficult for me to keep practicing. And then I just kept at it.

(Courtesy of Monica Hee Eun)

Daimonion 1
(Courtesy of Monica Hee Eun)

Monica Hee Eun
(Courtesy of Monica Hee Eun)

Tell me about your escapism.

Monica: I don’t think I feel like have the need to distract myself that much. Which I guess is good, since it must mean I don’t have many unpleasant things in my life that I can’t or won’t deal with. Unless making art counts as escapism of course!

But if we are talking about stuff I like to entertain myself with, when not doing practical stuff or art related stuff - I love training martial arts - karate, boxing or thai boxing. It excites me and calms me down at the same time and it satisfies a very primal part of myself, that for me is very important to physically connect with. I also like to game - More specifically the PvP part of Destiny 2, From Software games like Dark Souls, Bloodborne and Sekiro, strategy games like Civilization and lately a cute little game called The Battle of Polytopia.

Visiting Copenhagen, Denmark is on my to-do list, there are many cutting-edge events, shows and exhibitions occur. Truly a vibrant city. Any suggestions for in-demand places that inspire you as well?

Monica: I would have loved if I could give you a whole lot of cool and interesting places to go see here in Copenhagen. I guess I am just not a big culture vulture. I only go to museums if there is a special exhibition I REALLY want to see “live” and that is unfortunately very rare. The same goes for concerts and movies. On the other hand, I am such a web-dependent consumer - the internet is my main source of for entertainment as well as creative inspiration.

Any final words before you leave and return to your sanctuary?

Monica: I really want to say thank you so much for the great and somewhat challenging questions. When answering good questions, like yours, I realise things about myself that I perhaps didn’t think about or verbalise before. There is great value in that.

Monica Hee Eun
(Lovely Lady Monica Hee Eun herself)


Monica Hee Eun's Instagram: @monicaheeeun

Monica Hee Eun's Official Web-Page: monicaheeeun


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