Alison Lee is a South Korean abstract artist and handbag designer radiating out of Los Angeles, California.
As an emerging contemporary painter, she created several elegant paintings that elicit warm, lush feelings of comfort, wonder, and awe. Inspired by the distinct imagery in nature, space, and history, in combination with the use of 3-dimensional and mixed media, including acrylics, and her own organically brewed mediums to create compelling textured effects on canvas, Alison developed her signature style.
Born and raised in Seoul, Alison was fascinated with art from an early age and enrolled in an art academy, but discovered that it did not fit her experimental artistic style.
During her teenage years, she relocated to the USA with her family and attended high school, this was when her teacher noticed her potential to excel as an artist during art class and encouraged her to pursue a career in art. Having to earn a living after completing school, Alison had to find a steady job and was told that a career in art is unstable, so she opted for design school and later, got married, became a mother and handbag designer in 2018.
Diagnosed with depression in 2019, Alison began drifting away from art and into thoughts of isolation. After a while, she gained the confidence to paint again which became a positive outlet for her depressive feelings.
Letting out all her emotions and feelings on the canvas healed her mind and soul, and beautifully transformed her life experiences into stunning paintings that go beyond the textures, shapes, and explosion of colors. Without trying to create an accurate depiction of visual reality, Alison uses textural formations and patterns to achieve the desired effect. Although her artistic journey is still developing, her free-flowing ability “like the natural flow of water,” in tandem with life’s imperfections, seems more perfect and purer as she continues to blossom and create stunning works of art.
How would you describe yourself and your work? And what does a typical day look like for?
Alison: I am a passionate person for art who likes new challenges. I consider that I still keep a childish side, a naivety that I think we should all keep alive since childhood also has very nice things. It is a time of honesty, without prejudices, and a lot of curiosity to discover new things and question old ones. This has helped me a lot in my artistic activity since I have allowed myself to play with the art. Above all, I have to enjoy what I do.
My work is about the manifestation of feelings and the abstract representation of nature, that is, I try to capture its essence in my canvases. By this, I mean that I like to experiment with the procedures and aesthetics of my works. For me, art is forms, colors, textures, and emotions. My paintings go beyond the eyes; they are looked at and felt. My artistic production speaks about me, about my interior, my experiences in life, and my interpretation of reality. Art has been part of my life since I was a child and has been the medium to channel what words could not. Art gives me the freedom I need and allows me to connect with my environment. My mother tongue is Korean and the second language is English. I can handle both languages but I usually have the help of an interpreter to explain myself better.
I am a very spiritual person so the most important thing for me is that my paintings cause a connection with the viewer. I would like my works to inspire or affect the mood of my audience so that I can transmit to them the energy and spirituality that has helped me so much in my worst moments. It is a way to give back to the world what it has given me. In short, my works are the imprint I leave on this world and the bridge to other people, although in the end, everyone will have their own experience with the work and constantly re-signify it and that comforts me.
As for my typical day, it’s just like everyone else’s. I am usually very busy at home with my children due to quarantine. The good thing about it is that I can share a lot of time with them, we play and also make art together. After they sleep, I start painting and enjoy my free time.
You’re originally from South Korea and moved to Los Angeles, California. How do different art communities compare?
Alison: A crucial difference I find in both cultures is that in Korea there is a strong cultural identity and respect for traditions that are not as present in the United States. By this, I mean that Korea until not so long ago has been a closed country, but that is changing over time. But there are some customs like the strict work culture and the importance of family that are maintained. The United States is a country built by very diverse and free people despite the defects that are present in all societies. But I find in art a universal language in which I can communicate without cultural or language differences, my paintings seek to transcend the painting itself.
What motivates you as an artist? Is it curiosity, the search for beauty or meaning? And is there a message you are trying to give with your art?
Alison: From the beginning, my greatest motivation as an artist was the externalization of my way of interpreting myself and my surroundings. But life is about constant change. My way of living and seeing life has changed a lot since I became a mother. My children and my inner child are one of my main inspirations to create art. This has also changed my motivation. I have immortalized the fleeting nature of their childhood in my three-dimensional works by incorporating some of their old toys.
They inspire me day by day and joining painting with my children is a beautiful way to connect with art again and also to convey the importance of appreciating or creating art in life. I want my children to grow up creative and have a channel to express themselves freely. There is nothing more beautiful when both of them know each other -my children and my inner child- and connect in the free play of painting. It is a unique, mystical, and genuine connection.
With this said, of course, I want to transmit something with my art. But I prefer not to condition the experience of the audience by establishing a specific message for my works, but I do intend to transmit some sensation to them, I want them to feel good, I want them to connect spiritually with my paintings, to feel comfortable. I pursue the beauty in things, but if it can only be appreciated visually, it is an empty work and I look for a connection.
When did you start using the texture on canvas and which developed into your signature style?
Alison: I have been interested in experimentation and intuitive process since I have been interested in art. In fact, this was the reason why I decided to abandon my traditional training at the art academy. Since 2019 I have returned to painting and decided to turn to art. Since then, my artistic search has taken shape and I started working with textures that later on became my personal seal. Texture has been my main expressive resource since I consider it to be a portion of reality that gives life to my paintings: the texture is the portion of my children’s childhood, it is the portion of nature that surrounds me, it is the portion of the paint that I work with. Textures are in everything we know so it creates an instant connection in people, beyond what visually makes the work more attractive.
Your art is very unique. What’s the most challenging part of your artistic process? And how do you overcome it?
Alison: Thank you very much. I believe that the challenge is there at all times from the moment I get the idea in my head. It’s really challenging to capture an abstract aspect in painting and manage to convey it to the viewer. Although it requires a lot of training and technique, realistic or figurative work is easily interpreted and does not present difficulties in representing the concept since these are elements that we recognize in reality.
On the other hand, expressing emotion is much more complex to achieve a connection with the other. However, in the same way, realistic work can be excellently executed but may not transmit anything. A work of art must transcend what we see and that is the main challenge. But as an artist, I have to be genuine and let myself go regardless of how it can be interpreted. The creative process is then a first instance that represents a personal act that once I share its results, the work becomes everyone’s property.
How has your work developed since you began and how would you see it evolving in the future?
Alison: Well, my life has been transformed over the years and this has affected my work. As a child, I attended an art academy from third to sixth grade. During that period, my art was crossed by traditional art education which was not what I wanted because I was interested in experimenting in a freer way, exploring my concerns. After finishing high school, I dedicated myself to design. In any case, creativity was still latent in my design work, since this career is also an art, even though you have very different characteristics. I transmitted my spirit and my creativity in my line of women’s clothing and bags that I kept until 2019.
That same year I was diagnosed with depression. While seeking therapy I also contacted an artist. I visited her and had the opportunity to take private lessons. Her paintings have healed and comforted my heart. I would have liked to have known her more but because of the current pandemic and the care of my children, I could not continue. Today I enjoy the time at home sharing my art with my children. During that time I tried various experimental scientific experiences and returned to the world of art, I returned to my first love which is painting. On my own, delving into the world of abstraction, spirituality, and artistic experimentation, I discovered and developed my own artistic style through the use of my own texture. Since then, I started to publish my works on social media and share them with everyone.
Share some interesting facts about your art with us.
Alison: I find interesting the different techniques and unconventional materials I use in my paintings. A particularity of my artistic style is to add my own medium directly to the canvas in a way that gives it a textured look and I combine them with acrylics. Other materials that I have incorporated have been my children’s toys that they no longer use and old furniture recycled for three-dimensional art. The idea is that they are recyclable materials since I respect nature which inspires me so much. I follow the concept that everything is art, life and nature are art. You don’t have to limit yourself to the techniques that are supposed to be for painting, I believe that everyone has their own concept of painting and art in general, so each artist should use what they feel comfortable with.
What memorable responses have you had to your work?
Alison: The best responses will always come from those people who can connect with my work. Each one of them impregnates their own experiences to the work and that is incredible. If even one person feels good about my paintings, I will be happy with my work. But without a doubt, the return that matters most to me is that of my children. They are part of my inspiration and we also create art together when we are at home. I want them to open up to the world and enjoy art, time together, enjoy life.
What is the best way to reach people that are interested in your art?
Alison: You can find everything I do on my social media (Ig: @alisonleeart). There I publish my works and share the creative process. For those who are interested, just contact me by DM or to my email (email@example.com). You can also visit my work and contact me through my website (www.alisonleeart.com)
What’s next for you?
Alison: So I am working on the next series of paintings which will continue to use textures and materials recycled. But I would like to cover different themes, for example, I will incorporate elements of oriental painting. I would also like to investigate more deeply the spiritual connection that is generated between me and the work and the viewers with the work. Therefore, I will make a series of paintings inspired by Christian art that express the importance of faith in life, especially in these complicated times in which solidarity and union will help us find the way out. But one never knows what will happen in the future, I wait for the flow of life to surprise me.
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