Basharat Bashir

Performance Art with Lee Wen

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Lee Wen was one of the most important performance artists who shaped the development of performance art in Asia. Born in 1957 Singapore-based artist brought performance art into new heights with his audacious approach and social engagements. He worked on the notion of identity, ethnicity, freedom, and the individual’s relationship to communities and the environment. He was one of the pioneers of Performance art in Singapore whose work wasmotivated by a strong conviction of justice and idealism and with a persistence to stay true to the Self in a highly structured world. Lee’s most iconic work is his performance series titled The Journey of a Yellow Man, which started as a critique of racial and ethnic identities in 1992. His continuous efforts quickly gained him international recognition, especially after his performance at renowned locations such as the Asia Pacific Triennial in Australia and the Gwangju Biennale.

Before starting his journey as a performance artist Lee worked as a logistics officer, a computer operator, and a bank officer. It was in 1988, when he left behind his banking career to enrol at the Lasalle-SIA College of the Arts at the age of 30. He displayed an amazingmultidisciplinary talent both in painting and various non-traditional media. His initial artistic journey was influenced by performance artist Tang Da Wu and other experimental artists Amanda Heng and Vincent Leow from The Artists Village. In 1990, Lee went on to study at the City of London Polytechnic, and it was there that Lee found his true calling as a performance artist. He went on to develop the Yellow Man persona which gained him his first recognition in the arts community.

In his “Yellow Man” performances, Lee painted himself with bright-yellow poster paint to express exaggerated imagery of ethnic identity as a Singaporean citizen. He had subsequently expanded the series to incorporate works that involve painting, installation, and mixed media, dubbing it “Journey of a Yellow Man.” In 2003, Lee organized the “Future of Imagination” international performance art event, seeing the value of having an annual gathering of international artists in Singapore, to share a continuing interest in the cultural constructs of identity in the global situation and current trends of contemporary art practice, through live performances and discussion forms.

Lee taught art at Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music and at his alma-mater back home in Singapore. He had also taught workshops at Hanoi University of Fine Arts, University of Ulster, UK, Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Mexico City, and Musashino Art University, Tokyo.

Lee’swork gained international recognition after 1993 and he subsequently showcased his work in many international locations such as Gwangju Biennale and the Third Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT3), Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia in 1999. Where he performed Journey of a Yellow Man No.13.

His solo exhibitions include Journey of a Yellow Man No.3: DESIRE, The Substation, Singapore (1993); Neo-Baba, VA-Nishiogi Gallery, Tokyo (1995); Handmade Tales, The Black Box, Theatreworks, Singapore (1996); Everybody Should Be Happy, Utterly Art, Singapore (2002); Strange Fruit, The Substation, Singapore (2003); Unframed 7, P-10, Singapore (2004); Freedom of Daydreams, Mothers of Imagination, Your MOTHER Gallery, Singapore (2007); and Anthropometry Revision, Soo Bin Art Gallery, Singapore (2008).

Additionally, he participated in artist-run projects, particularly those associated with The Artists Village (TAV) in Singapore, the group Black Market International, and the festivals Future of Imagination and Rooted in the Ephemeral Speak (R.I.T.E.S.). On 3 March 2019, he died due to a lung infection, at the age of 61. Lee’s essays, texts, and investigations are an important reference, not only for Singaporean and Asian artists, but also for Performance art scholars and researchers worldwide.

In 2012, Singapore Art Museum organized a mid-career retrospective titled Lucid Dreams in the Reverie of the Real, featuring more than forty installations, photographs, and videos.In 2019, Hong Kong-based non-profit Asia Art Archive organized an exhibition with his sketchbooks and notebooks, highlighting these as “sites of performance.”

Lee Wen received Singapore’s highest cultural honour the Cultural Medallion in 2005 for his contributions to the growth of the regional contemporary art scene, and in 2015 he was shortlisted for The Joseph Balestier Award for the Freedom of Art, which recognises a Southeast Asian artist or curator whose work is actively committed to promoting freedom and eventuallyin 2016, he received the honour.

Asia Art Archive digitised the artist’s private archive, which contains materials about his work as an artist, organiser, and writer beginning in the early 1980s, in partnership with NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore and National Gallery Singapore as a supporting collaborator.

Nyoman Masriadi

Born in 1973 Nyoman Masriadi is a painter and a leading artist of the post-Suharto era in Indonesia. His unusualbody of work gained him a collector’s base in and around the region. Born in Gianyar, Bali, Masriadi received his training in art at the Indonesian Institute of the Arts, Yogyakarta (ISI).Masriadi in his paintings illustrates super human comic characters added with Indonesian cultural history as well as biting social commentary on contemporary life and global pop culture.

His work gained him an unparalleled recognition making him Southeast Asia’s most well-received contemporary artist at auction and the first living Southeast Asian artist whose work has topped $1 million at auction. From the initial stages of his career when he was still an art student,he had already been recognized by his peers as one of the first contemporary Balinese artists who eased himself away from an encompassing concern with Balinese life, culture, and traditions in his works. His interest and hunger for learning was so much that to avoid any distraction he is reputed to have stood in front of the canvas on a cardboard box.

In his early works, one can observe him engaging in a caricature-based duel with Western modernism while disguising it as cubism and fusing it with graffiti, street advertising, and the language of the city. Masriadi pays close attention to his surroundings, social interactions, and behavioural characteristics, which he then creatively incorporates into his work. His creative output is filled with and appropriate wittiness and eye-catching, avant-garde. According to Ashley Bickerton, Masriadi’s visual vocabulary is constantly evolving and current. The director of the Paul Kasmin Gallery in New York, Nicholas Olney, recalls his first thoughts on this exhibition: He claims that the humour and biting wit “came through immediately.” “This guy was talking on a universal scale.”

The artist’s first solo exhibition, “Masriadi: Black Is My Last Weapon,” was co-organized by Gajah Gallery and held at the Singapore Art Museum in 2008. The exhibition covered Masriadi’s ten-year career and examined the development of his distinctive black-skinned figures, a style that other Indonesian painters have now frequently imitated.

Masriadi’s works are marked by Consistency of the highest calibre, thoughtful in the messages they convey from the scenes and characters in his pictorial world and painstakingly meticulous in their execution and finishing. These are the attributes that have earned him favour in the wider world of art collecting. Masriadi infuses wholesomeness into his work by masterfully manipulating light, shadow, and volume. His characters almost have the appearance of having been carved out of paint, giving them a three-dimensional appearance. He employs figures from comic books, cowboys, soldiers, and athletes, but they are also frequently just powerfully built men and women who are performing lone acts of strength or being photographed in secret moments of vulnerability.

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