The photographic sculpture Three Ginseng Roots is a commissioned artwork for River Park Place in Richmond, BC. Balancing modern materials and processes with natural forms and colours, the three glass panels are installed within the water feature to give the sense that the roots are floating.
Ginseng is a medicinal plant used by many cultures and especially in traditional Chinese medicine. Rare and precious specimens that have been found in the wild can be seen on display at the many herbal stores in Richmond. Ginseng is also grown on farms throughout Canada, including on the Fraser River. The artwork promotes good health, well-being and connection with nature.
It is said that the dried roots resemble human figures. These roots have been enlarged to the size of a person to make them come to life and so that viewers will imagined their own characters and personalities for them them
In 2006, Evan Lee created a series of works entitled Dollar Store Still Life that depicted cheaply manufactured goods purchased at a dollar store but presented in the style of traditional Dutch and Flemish still life genre paintings. Historically, these still life paintings were intended to showcase an individual or family’s wealth, capturing their most valuable possessions. They were also considered allegories of time, depicting rotting fruit and flowers and presenting moral lessons about vanity, the pursuit of worldly goods, and the certainty of death. Lee’s 2006 still lifes composed of inexpensive consumer commodities questioned contemporary values placed on popular goods, as well as the economy of overseas manufacture and import.
The term Hyakkin refers to a “100 yen store” in Japan. For the revisiting of this series, Lee composed still lifes using only items from Daiso, a Japanese dollar store located in Richmond. Returning to the series 10 years later asks us to consider changes in the economic and geopolitical state of our consumer culture: do these Asian goods change our expectations of a still life? What is the value of a dollar one decade later? Lee’s series continues his discourse on contemporary values as they relate to consumer goods, and asks us to reflect on the economic and demographic changes that have occurred over the past decade.
Fugazi consists of 5-by-5 foot prints created from digital scans of cubic zirconia, relatively inexpensive but high quality imitations of diamonds. A “Fugazi“ is a slang term used in Mafia films for a counterfeit diamond. The images are captured at a high level of detail and are enlarged fifteen thousand percent to a scale that renders the gems’ internal appearance as mesmerizingly random, distorted and fractured, while the effects of digital image-loss and artifacting emerge to aid in their visual transformation. The patterns of abstract shapes and reflected colours appear kaleidoscopic and at times groundless, an aesthetic that Lee manipulates further by constructing geometric backgrounds in response to the resulting visual space.
Fugazi also continues the artist’s interest in psychedelia, illusion and optics, as explored in such earlier works as Every Part from a Contaflex Camera… (2006); Stain (2003); and Phoropter (2012). Contrary to the reproducible nature of photography, each of the Fugazi prints, made on fine art paper, exists only as a signed unique edition of one.
This series features individual studies of 36 different ginseng roots, an herb used in traditional Chinese medicine and by other cultures. These captures are inspired by the botanical specimen photographs of Karl Blossfeldt. It is said that Ginseng Roots resemble the human form, especially in their dried, withered form. Through the scanning process, they come alive, suggesting people, animals and other creatures.
This project has been adapted for a permanent public artwork at River Park Place, Richmond, BC in 2016.
In Dollar Store Still Life, cheap plastic dollar store goods made in overseas factories and imported in bulk by the container load stand in for the perishable delicacies and unique objects of luxury typically showcased in traditional Dutch and Flemish genre paintings. The low cost of the objects depicted is stated in the title of each work, e.g.: Dollar Store Still Life with Decorative Fruit and Feathers ($8). In 2016, the artist will revisit the project using goods purchased at a Japanese Two-Dollar store, reflecting on the economic and demographic changes that have occurred over the period of 10 years.
See essay “Still Life with Dollar Store” Still Life, Contemporary Art Gallery Vancouver, 2010