In contrast to the “fake” diamonds used to produce Fugazi (2016), the gems pictured in Captives/Adamas (2020) are genuine diamonds of high quality and price. In these photographs, however, the diamonds appear in an unfamiliar form—they are uncut. Through extensive focus and exposure stacking—a macro-photography technique where limited depth-of-field requires areas of exposure and focus to be composited together—Lee captures these otherworldly rough gems as objects of great value that have yet to come into existence. This idea of the “yet-to-emerge” is reflected in the first half of the title, Captives, which refers to Michelangelo’s unfinished sculptures, where partially carved figures emerge from rough, untouched marble. The second half points to the Greek origin of the word “diamond”: Adamas, meaning “invincible, indestructible and unyielding.” The duality produced by these two seemingly disparate words suggests the paradoxical values we hold in contemporary culture: captive, yet emergent; indestructible, yet unformed—manifesting in cultural obsessions with eternal youth and power. (Kate Henderson)
Category Archives: Works By Date
Public Art/Exhibition: Double Meaningless, No.3 Road Art Columns, Richmond
The City of Richmond invited me to mentor emerging Richmond Artists Crystal Ho and Chad Wong to produce public artworks on the theme of Migration. I wanted to try something a little different and work with text and language. My project, Double Meaningless, 2018 is a response to the ongoing debate in Richmond over signage and English language requirements.
Polish Paintings 2021 – (in progress)
Polish Paintings (2021) continues Lee’s trajectory of experimental paintings made using nontraditional materials. Common household shoe polish, a waxy substance that produces an effect similar to oil[Office1] paint, here creates a series of glossy veneers that reference the high status of the “black square monochrome painting” during the modern art era of the 1950s and ’60s. Such historical paintings continue to fetch millions of dollars at auction, and Lee urges us to consider the value we place on objects and artworks through these substitutes that reference the occupation of shoe shiners and the classism inherent in the economy of artistic production. (Kate Henderson)
Exhibition: The Pacific, Libby Leshgold Gallery
October 21, 2017 to January 14, 2018
Exhibition curated by Cate Rimmer
Opening Reception: Friday October 20, 2017 at 7:00pm
The Pacific, the inaugural exhibition at the Libby Leshgold Gallery, brings together artists from countries in and around the Pacific Ocean.
The exhibition considers the Pacific Ocean as a shared and connected space. It explores the idea that although the Pacific is an immense body of water there is a strong sense that it is a space of connection between peoples that live beside or are surrounded by it — that it brings people together rather than separates them. In contrast, much of the narrative around the Atlantic Ocean has historically perceived it as a space of distancing and division.
In thinking about the Pacific Ocean as a shared space we can consider the histories and contemporary concerns as linked while also being specific to each place. The show will include works that address environmental issues such as rising sea levels, nuclear contamination, the impact of industry and the built environment on the ocean. It will also consider human migration and the experiences of migrants. Finally it will touch upon our deep personal and spiritual bonds to the waters of the Pacific.
Some of the work in the exhibition include excerpts from Charles Lim’s Sea State, which was shown at the 56th Venice Biennale at the Singapore Pavilion, Paula Schaafhausen’s Ebbing Tagaloa, an installation made of sand and coconut oil, and Khvay Samnang’s Air, a video made in the Fukushima Prefecture shortly after the nuclear disaster occurred. Isabel and Alfredo Aquilizan will be making a large site-specific installation in the gallery in the weeks leading up to the opening.
Curated by Cate Rimmer, The Pacific extends the research begun in the multi-part exhibition The Voyage, or Three Years at Sea. It will include the work of Isabel and Alfredo Aquilizan (Philippines), Taloi Havini (Papua New Guinea), Charles Lim (Singapore), Genevieve Robertson (Canada), Jane Chang Mi (Hawaii), Khvay Samnang (Cambodia), Simryn Gill (Malaysia/Australia), Michael Drebert (Canada), Paula Schaafhausen (Samoa), Kalisolaite ‘Uhila (Tonga/New Zealand), Evan Lee (Canada), Beau Dick (Canada). There will be a series of talks and events scheduled around the opening and during the run of the exhibition that will include artists, migrant communities, social historians and scientists.
Public Art/Exhibition: Hyakkin Still Life, 2017 Capture Photography Festival Billboard Project – Inorganic Solutions
Public Art: Three Ginseng Roots, 2016 – Public Art Installation, River Park Place
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
Hyakkin Still Life (series), 2017
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.
Ichiban, 2016 (series)
In Ichiban, the artist mixes paint and instant ramen noodles with other found objects to create experimental sculptures that consider the artificial nature of “instant” food, as well as reflecting on ephemeral form and temporality in the artworks themselves. Like the companion work, Fugazi, Ichiban alludes to the complex relationship between that which is “real” and that which is “artificial” in our contemporary culture and art. Lee’s project reflects on his earlier works, such as the Dollar Store Still Life series (2006), which also examined the economic and cultural values of fake and artificial consumer goods
installation photo by Chris Rollett
Fugazi, 2016 (series)
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.