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Lee Mok Yee - Une Esquisse Céleste

Vernissage Thursday 6 October, 18h - 20h

Exhibition from  6 to 30 October, 2022

Thursday – Sunday, 15h – 18h, and by appointment.

A sketch, unlike a painting, envelopes a sense of process; a state of in-between. It lies somewhere between definitive and uncertain, between finished and raw; like a journey that is ongoing. For these reasons, a sketch is also a perfect comparison to Mok Yee’s approach in his overall artistic practice. Mok Yee’s past works have seen him interfering materials and objects, separating them from their original functions, wittily combining them together with certain gestures or elements that create a new stimulus in the eyes of the audience. Yet, those new arrangements of ready-mades - from spoons in Forgotten History (2012), to his PVC carpet series (2022) - do not seek to exist as an entirely new matter. The materials remain recognisable, and are only midway in their process of becoming. Once again, this shows the “inbetweenness” in Mok Yee’s works, whereby collective memories embedded within these objects meet the artist’s personal curiosities towards certain themes or subjects.

Une esquisse céleste (2022), presented as part of the artist’s current residency at Galerie Huit Arles, France, is therefore a meaningful series to the artist, as he temporarily drifts away from his usual method of “making”, and adopt a more straightforward approach that is sketching. The presentation combines two distinct explorations of sketches, both which are deeply personal. 

The first, a series of charcoal on paper made during his residency at Rimbun Dahan, Malaysia, is a result of remembering and self-releasing through body movements. Spending time in the lush gardens of the residency place, he was seduced by several shapes in the landscape including the roundness of fruits, the curves of tree branches, amongst other forms, . Distancing his approach from ‘live drawing’ however, he immersed into this natural environment without a single tool in his hand. The only thing he held onto was his own memory, which he then brought back into his studio to begin sketching. In such an approach, resemblance becomes insignificant, and that creates a room for imagination. The artist chose to let go of preconceptions surrounding how the body should be when creating, and instead, took the liberty to move freely. He admitted that this experience mirrored the sensation of doing a performance, and evoked the link that he has been looking for between his two artistic practices; that of a visual artist, and that of a professional drummer. 

These abstract compositions come in interesting play with the second series of sketches etched on stainless steel and aluminum plates. Unlike the charcoal sketches on paper, here, Mok Yee’s autonomy is instead challenged by the limits that this medium established to his gesture. The artist describes the process as precise, careful, and full of struggles. It is nonetheless his personal battle against the medium that becomes his bridge to connect with the object; a relationship that is difficult yet so intimate, and forces him to count on himself. On the surfaces of these plates are conveyed several realities that the artist refuses to forget, from past moments to emotions, permanently leaving a mark. Analogous to how memories are carried around in our heads, these plates too, have been transported from one ‘home’ to another (the artist has brought it from Kuala Lumpur to Arles), and might continue to travel. 

At this point of encounter - between a banal object and an artist’s imagination - Mok Yee’s works reach a “celestial” state, which he amplifies through other elements that complete the display. Romantic, the exhibit transports viewers to natural places. Firstly, through a video showing repetitive movements of waters near a shore, and then a vertical photoprint of a tree. If recollections were to evolve into aesthetic forms, this installation would be a perfect example. 

Amanda Ariawan, 2022

Lee Mok Yee is the 2022 laureat of Arles-Penang Exchange Residency.

The Residency is a formal partnership between the Penang State Government (Chief Minister of Penang Incorporated ), the Embassy of France in Malaysia and Galerie Huit Arles in France.  

Supported by the Institut francais, and in collaboration with the Alliance Francaise de Penang, the Penang State Museum and Art Gallery, and Hikayat


For more information about the artist and Rimbun Dahan, please visit:

IMG_20220814_125709 copy.jpg

© Lee Mok Yee, Rimbun Dahan series No 8, 2022

© Maria Lax, Awake

Profile Picture_Lee Mok Yee (BW).jpg

About the Artist

Lee Mok Yee (b. 1988, Klang) received his Diploma in Fine Art from the Dasein Academy of
Art, Malaysia, and his Degree in Fine Art from Middlesex University of London. Mok Yee’s
work is primarily concerned with the entanglement between the conceptual and the material.
He is process-focused and often interrogative of the material aspect in art-making, choosing
to work with ready-made or store-bought objects. Mok Yee re-arranges these materials as
an act of interrogation against uniformity, pushing against the boundaries of function in mass
produced objects. In his material re-/arranging, his practice questions the idea of moving
within structures as an exploration of change and its futility.

Currently, Mok Yee is pursuing collaborative projects and art residencies. Most recently, he was a grantee under British Council’s Connections through Culture programme in 2021, during which he participated in an online residency with British artist Laura Porter.

In the same year, he initiated a temporary collective called Labour &  Weight alongside artists and cultural workers Okui Lala, Yeo Lyle, and Koe Cheng Gaik, which travelled to and exhibited in various spaces around Malaysia. The project was funded by the CENDANA Art in the City
Public Art Commission. Also in 2021, his work was selected for the Gold Award in UOB’s
annual Painting of the Year competition. Mok Yee has exhibited in various galleries locally
and in Germany, London, Korea, and Singapore. His most recent solo exhibitions include A
Rhetorical Garden (2021) at Richard Koh Fine Art, Kuala Lumpur; Superstition II (2019) at
George Town Festival, Penang; and Superstition (2013) at Studio at Straits, Penang.

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