Kiwha Lee (b. Seoul, Korea) is a painter based in New York and Singapore. She poses questions about what painting is in the 21st century, complicating the viewer's reading of pictorial hierarchy by engaging pattern as a narrative tool. Using patterns to create spatial depth instead of European perspectival conventions, Lee sheds Western notions of an "inside" or "outside" and proposes an alternative to easel painting's painting as window by way of the jali—an ornamental, architectural, latticed screen that functioned as a window for centuries. Concentrated light pierces through from the back of the painting and affects the space of the viewer, in solidarity with the viewer class. Reinventing ancient Asian printmaking processes from craft traditions with oil paint, she converses with and challenges the hegemony of male, European modernists like Matisse who drew from the visual vocabulary of the imaginary Orient.
Nominated for the Sovereign Asian Art Prize in 2018, she has exhibited at Fergus McCaffrey, Thierry Goldberg, Ortega y Gasset Projects, COL Gallery, Deanna Evans Projects, Far x Wide, Leroy Neiman Gallery, 205 Hudson Gallery, Collar Works, Vardan Gallery and Chan+Hori Gallery among others. Her work has been featured in publications like New American Paintings, ArtMaze Magazine, Vulture, The Business Times, Asian Art News, Harper's BAZAAR. Lee was named one of three emerging female artists in Singapore by Asian Art News Magazine in 2019 and was a finalist for the Harper's Bazaar Art Prize 2017. Art residencies/fellowships include Vermont Studio Center, Chautauqua Institution (NY) and the NPE Art Residency (Singapore). Lee attended Columbia University’s School of Art for advanced painting and has completed her MFA (Painting) from Hunter College in spring of 2022.
Lee first studied at the University of New South Wales College of Fine Arts then the University of Technology Sydney in Australia (B. Design in Visual Communication (Hons). Drawing from lived global experience and work re-imagining and changing the way people think and live, Lee channels the empathy and knowledge of a culture miner—keenly interested in philosophy, social anthropology and semiotics to explore the shapes of history, shared space and thresholds. Influenced by travel and a natural inclination to see beyond arbitrary boundaries, Lee founded the influential art space, THE FLAT, from 2013-2018 in Singapore where high/low hierarchies between fine art and craft were purposely removed. The daughter of an urban planner academic and a novelist, Lee was born in Seoul and raised on four continents, namely in the cities of New York, Sydney, Seoul, Boston and London.
Lee's first New York solo exhibition will open on January 19th in 2024 at Chart in Tribeca, NY. Her work was most recently shown at Untitled Art 2023, Miami Beach in a two-person showcase with Shona McAndrew and Chart Gallery. Her paintings were selected for New American Paintings MFA Annual 2023 issue #165 and ArtMaze Magazine's Double Volume Edition 32-33 in 2023.