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)
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)
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.
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.
Untitled Migrant Ship Re-creation Project, 2009 – present, (in progress)
An ongoing archive of material generated from this in-progress project, including sketches, 3D renders, work documentation, installation views, research, and other related ephemera.
In 2009, the artist began a re-creation of a press image depicting the arrival of the Sri Lankan migrant ship, the MV Ocean Lady at the west coast of Canada. This work was realized in many different forms, but most notably as a 3D re-creation and 3D printed models. In addition to photographs, drawings, paintings and other works, there is a web archive of this project.
It is with this project that the artist began looking at how migration has been depicted in media and in history. This subject concerns the complexities and challenges of immigration and its history in Canada, some of which were experienced directly by the artist’s family and friends.
At the moment, numerous people from Africa and the Middle East are attempting to reach Europe by sea. Many Europeans view this as problematic, leading to a strong rise in nationalism and anti-immigration rhetoric and policy. These attitudes also exist closer to home: in 2009 and 2010, two ships arrived at the coast of BC carrying Tamil asylum-seekers from Sri Lanka. Canadian authorities seized these ships and detained their crew and passengers. There has been massive public debate and speculation over the legality of their refugee claims and the practice of human smuggling, and a climate of xenophobia has developed amidst accusations of immigration “queue-jumping” and fears of terrorism. This has been echoed many times in Canada’s history by the arrival of: Fujianese migrants in 1999, Jewish Europeans on the MS St. Louis in 1939 and Sikhs on the SS Komagata Maru in 1914. And it is difficult to separate this history from that of slavery and colonialization.
Black Bloc (Black Blot), 2014, mixed media
Beginning in 2009, the artist began looking critically at found media and historical images, particularly those depicting protest and migration, with the intention of recreating, transforming, and expanding them through interdisciplinary forms such as sculpture, mixed media, and paintings. Staring with the project, Migrant Ship Re-Creation, this also took the form of several related projects: Migrant Portraits, Black Bloc (Black Blot), Black Bloc Abstraction (Diptych), Burning Flag (after Jyllands-Posten)
In contrast to popular, ubiquitous images of revolution and provocation (such as Alberto Korda’s portrait of Che Guevara, or the graffiti works of Banksy), the found press images that artist refers to are markedly non-iconic, from nameless and faceless Black Bloc protesters to migrants whose identities have been obscured by the press. Lee approaches these images from a perspective of speculation, creating artworks that either reconstruct or further obscure the subjects. This dual process amplifies the missing details and facts that are not included in the original press images or their accompanying news stories, pointing to an inherent confusion or lack of clarity surrounding the actual events.
These works include large-scale black and white paintings where silhouettes of marching Black Bloc protesters have been repeated in a motif that borders on abstraction; earth-toned, classical style oil portraits of the same migrants created in composite from blurry or pixelated press images and online searches; and a video that recreates the burning of a Danish flag, which was originally enacted by protesters in response to anti-Muslim cartoons that were published in Denmark. The works engage in a dialogue with news media images of protest, the interpretation of these images, their bias and their influence.
Forest Fires, 2009-10
In the landscape series Forest Fires the artist continues to employ the manipulated printer ink technique used in Flashers to found images of British Columbia forest fires.
The artist approaches this material in a way that reflects these shifts: he experiments with printing on the back of expired photographic paper and works over the still-wet pigment ink using a paintbrush. This results in a unique (un-duplicable) image that is faint and distorted, and resembles a painting, while remaining fundamentally a photograph. The substrate’s watermark, which reads “KODAK PROFESSIONAL PAPER”, once the proud hallmark of Kodak’s analog photographic legacy, remains visible in the overexposure.
Nude and Draped Figure Studies by the artist and his father, c.1950/2008-09
Another pseudo-collaboration between the artist and his father, where nude studies made by the artist’s father in the 1950s are the source material for a period re-creation. In the finished installation of this work, the images made by the artist in the present were displayed with ones made by his father in the past, as if made by the same person at the same time and place. The artist’s intention was to create an anachronism. This project is the second time that the artists has used his father’s amateur photography and consider both projects to be collaborations with his father despite the 50-60 years difference and his very limited involvement. These projects follow a lineage of conceptual themes considered by artists such as Marcel Duchamp, Sherrie Levine, and Richard Prince probing the idea of originality and authorship in the work of art, but pushes further to consider the uncertain and unexpected roles that certain and unavoidable relations, such as those of family, time and history, might play.