Grey Projects


Mereka Merdeka by Lee Wen [2017]

[14.09.17 — 05.10.17]

Grey Projects is proud to present the long awaited presentation of Lee Wen's new works. These drawings and paintings are the culmination of nearly four years of difficult labor in the face of mounting physical challenges. In these recent years, Lee is preoccupied with the precariousness of artistic and social freedom, and the intimate histories from which these preoccupations begin. 

Mereka Merdeka features 11 new works, including a pair of scroll drawings that express solidarity and intimacy with Lee’s collaborators and confidantes. The women in Lee’s life make strong appearances - his wife Satoko and his lately-departed mother feature in two large canvases. In a suite of small drawings, Lee captures essential details of his studio and living spaces — his guitar, his iPad10 — objects through which he continues to perform and speak in an unstinting engagement with his physiological and political limitations. Mereka Merdeka is Lee’s desire for the future and his affirmation of the potential for expansive freedoms in the present.

Lee Wen (b. 1957) is a Singaporean multidisciplinary artist working on social identity themes. After leaving a banking career to enroll at LASALLE College of the Arts, Lee graduated with a Masters of Fine Art in 2006. Best known for his Yellow Man series of work, Lee is one of the pioneers of Performance Art in Singapore.

Lee relies on the strategic deployment of visual, kinesthetic symbols and signs in his works. Through various constructed personas, his works allow visitors an insight into his roles as an artist. Lee has been exploring different strategies of time-based and performance art since 1989. Lee’s work has been strongly motivated by social investigations as well as inner psychological directions using art to interrogate stereotypical perceptions of culture and society.

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.

Beyond his performance art, Lee is a multidisciplinary artist. To him, all his work regardless of medium is about conveying a message to the audience by means of composing a picture, image or scene. Faced with the obstacle of battling with Parkinson’s disease, the artist’s body movements are increasingly limited, thus large paintings and drawings have become a feat to him. The gestures of marking and drawing lines across the blank spaces, the very act of painting and drawing is akin to a performance in itself. Despite these challenges, his two-dimensional works convey an overwhelming sense of optimism and perseverance.

Lee Wen is a contributing member of The Artists Village of Singapore and participated in the Black Market international performance collective. Lee is also co-organiser of R.I.T.E.S. – Rooted in the Ephemeral Speak (2009), a platform to support and develop performance art practices, discourse, infrastructure and audiences in Singapore. In 2003, Lee spearheaded 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 2005, Lee was awarded the Cultural Medallion for his contributions to the development of Contemporary Art in Singapore and he recently won the Joseph Balestier Award for the Freedom of Art in 2016.