• Yona Lee

Objects in Practice presents three new sculptures by Auckland-based artist Yona Lee. Over the past seven years, Lee has refined a vocabulary of stainless steel tubing supporting everyday items. These items, deployed in carefully orchestrated installations, evoke the itinerant and fugitive experiences of contemporary life by collaging together fragments of urban and domestic environments. Objects in Practice is a series of material gestures that prompt us to consider the role of iteration or rehearsal within artistic practice. Further, Lee's repertoire of actions, built up over time, provides a means to express the habitual and intricate drama of our everyday lives.

The free-standing sculptures in Objects in Practice sit low to the ground on coloured yoga mats. Upon encounter, they draw the eye and the body towards the floor, changing a typical viewing experience by asking us to crouch down or to sit alongside the works. There is a sense of play as Lee’s floor-based sculptures bend themselves into sleek knots, their bodily scale eliciting the tacit knowledge of hand-to-steel and knee-to-mat. They are also like bodies themselves. A clock face might stand in for a head; a pair of inverted lamp shades for a torso. In this way, Lee’s works take on a surreal quality, becoming reminiscent of an attenuated figure at rest, or schematic yoga diagrams, and making strange our encounters with everyday objects.

Perhaps the comedic or subversive qualities of Objects in Practice have always been present in Lee’s work. In an earlier installation by the artist, one might have experienced the shock and joy that ringing a bus stop buzzer in a hushed gallery induced. Or looking at her installation, In Transit (Highway), at the 15th Lyon Contemporary Art Biennale from a distance, feeling the exhilaration and paralysing vertigo of being 12 metres in the air and only a few centimetres from imminent disaster. These visceral, emotive punctuations might allow us to consider Lee’s work from an alternative perspective, beyond a formal analysis.

Lee has often compared her artistic process with musical performance and the interpretation of the composer’s emotional and narrative intent. This negotiation between composition/space and performance/sculptural intervention might bear a relationship to improvisational performance, which depends upon shared knowledge, and a repertoire of actions, built up over an extended period of practice. In turn, perhaps we can think about Lee's exhibition as a kind of improvisational performance, embodying a personal archive of gestures and memories, and capable of conveying vast emotional reserves.

In Lee’s work, objects and steel form an archive which is built up through iteration and sensory recall. This is also the way in which we might experience her chosen materials in the world outside of the gallery: fleetingly yet in profusion. One result of Lee’s iterative method is that there are infinite opportunities to rehearse the ordinary, strange, and improvisational performance of our everyday lives.

Yona Lee was born in 1986 in Busan, South Korea and she is based in Tāmaki Makaurau, Aotearoa. Lee’s work has recently been the subject of solo exhibitions including An Arrangement for 5 Rooms, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki (2022); In transit (choose a network), Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney (2018-2019); In Transit, City Gallery Wellington (2018-2019); and Succession, Dunedin Public Art Gallery (2020). She has featured in large-scale thematic exhibitions including the Busan Biennale, South Korea (2020); 15th Lyon Biennale of Contemporary Art, France (2019); and Changwon Sculpture Biennale, South Korea (2016).

Opening Hours

  • Tuesday - Friday, 10am – 5pm
  • Saturday - Sunday, 11am - 4pm


  • 301 Montreal Street
  • The Arts Centre Registry Additions Building (access from The Arts Centre Market Square)
  • Ōtautahi, Christchurch, 8013