Lee Wen

b. 1957, Singapore
d. 2019, Singapore

Lee Wen was 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 was one of the pioneers of Performance Art in Singapore.

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

Lee Wen’s essays, texts and investigations were an important reference, not only for Singaporean and Asian artists, but also for Performance art scholars and researchers worldwide. Beyond his performance art, Lee was a multidisciplinary artist. To him, all his works irregardless 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 were increasingly limited, thus large paintings and drawings had become a feat to him. The gestures of marking and drawing lines across the blank spaces, the very act of painting and drawing was akin to a performance in itself. Despite these challenges, his two-dimensional works convey an overwhelming sense of optimism and perseverance.

Lee Wen was a contributing member in The Artists Village of Singapore and had been participating in the Black Market international performance collective. Lee was 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 Wen was awarded the Cultural Medallion for his contributions to the development of Contemporary Art in Singapore and he also won the Joseph Balestier Award for the Freedom of Art in 2016.

Biography information from iPreciation, January 2023

Country: Singapore