Category Archives: Works By Date

Untitled Migrant Ship Re-creation Project, 2009 – present, in progress

Untitled Migrant Ship Re-creation Project, 2009 – present, (in progress)

Migrant Ship Re-Creation Project – Main Works Page

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.

Migrant Portraits, 2013-2014, Oil on Canvas

 Migrant Portraits, 2013-2014, Oil on Canvas

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.

Installation View, Migrant Ship Re-creation Project, Monte Clark Gallery

Black Bloc (Black Blot), 2014, mixed media (series)

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.

Black Bloc Abstraction #1 and #2, 2013-14, Oil on Canvas

Black Bloc Abstraction #1 and #2 (diptych), 2013-14, Oil on Canvas

04-el-saa-wag-black-bloc-abstraction

MCG install 2014 square

 

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.

Old Women, 2007 (series)

Old Women, 2007

The pencil drawings of Old Women originated with the ongoing photo-documentary project Closer than they Appear. In the communities that the artist was documenting, there were often elderly Chinese women walking the streets and parks. The drawings focus on the individual personalities, gestural idiosyncrasies, dress and accoutrement of these elderly women.

This work was often exhibited in conjunction with the photograph, Portrait of the Artist’s Grandmother from 2006.

Installation view, Drawing Photography, Monte Clark Gallery

Forest Fires, 2009-10 (series)

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.

Installation View, In Dialogue with Carr, Vancouver Art Gallery,
Image courtesy Rachel Topham/VAG

Nude and Draped Figure Studies by the artist and his father, c.1950/2008-09

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.

Flashers, 2009 (series)

Flashers, 2009 (series)

The series Flashers examines self-representation nude selfies found online. Each of them was taken in the mirror with flash, resulting in overexposed area that obscures the identity of the subject. 
Collectively, the images are a testament to the change that aesthetics, photography and sexuality have undergone due to the development of digital photography and the Internet.

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.

Installation view, Flashers at Restricted, Monte Clark Gallery

Ginseng Root Studies, 2005 (series)

Installation view, Painting Photography, Monte Clark Gallery, Toronto

Ginseng Root Studies, 2005 (series)

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.

installation view of Again and Again and Again… Serial Formats and Repetitive Actions, exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery, May 12 to September 3, 2012
Image courtesy Rachel Topham/VAG

Manual Labour, 2006

Installation view, Manual Labour, Richmond Art Gallery

Manual Labour, 2006

Manual Labour is a video loop comprised of black and white still images depicting an elderly labourer at work and rest at a residential construction site in east Vancouver. The silent procession of images is interrupted briefly when the homeowners arrive for a site visit. The video loop has been exhibited as a projection, and installed in the window of a door to a gallery that remained closed for the duration of the exhibition.