Gajah Gallery Singapore presents Neti Neti, a solo exhibition by Jane Lee produced in collaboration with Yogya Art Lab (YAL). Conceptualised and created over the span of the past two years, the show is Lee’s first sculptural solo exhibition in Singapore.
Dating back 8,000 years, Neti Neti is a Sanskrit expression that roughly translates as not this, not this. It is a constituent of the meditative search for a non-dual awareness of reality and universal essence. The expression has been an integral part of Lee’s search for her true self—consequently shaping Lee’s approach to artmaking.
Jane Lee is one of Singapore’s prominent contemporary artists, renowned for her sublime, sculptural works filled with intricate tactile details. In 2019, Lee began collaborating with YAL to create wall-based works from modelling clay, and has since explored a diverse range of materials with the foundry, from cement to stainless steel. Challenging the boundaries between painting and sculpture, Lee’s works created at YAL assume the physicality of sculpture while maintaining the illusory depth of the painted image.
Curated by John Tung, the show unveils 14 new artworks by Lee. Though it features sculptures, it builds on the artist’s ongoing attempts to distill the essence of painting. The works reference iconic paintings in art history, and radically invert their materials, proportions, and dimensions—thus challenging the boundaries between the various realms of art. From Monet paintings printed on crumpled steel, to a ceramic jug and rattan chair quite literally popping out of Cezanne and Van Gogh replicas, the innovative mediums and meticulous labour that went behind each work transform these familiar icons into thought-provoking, original works in their own right.
As Monet ceases to be Monet, and Cezanne ceases to be Cezanne, Lee simultaneously contends with the distinction between descriptions of reality and reality itself. Strips of stainless steel pierce out of J.M.W. Turner landscapes, imbuing a cold, industrial quality to their turbulent scenes. Leondardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is printed as a negative, infusing the familiar image with a haunted air. In her contemporary versions of these “masterpieces”, Lee powerfully expands the ways we engage with these revered works of art. They may hark back to images from decades and centuries ago, but Lee’s artistic vision brings them firmly in the present—setting the atmosphere for viewers to meditate on the elusive expression that connects these works: Neti Neti, not this, not this.
In this video, Jane Lee shares about how she began conceptualising this series that references the works of Old Masters back in 2019, and how she navigated the challenges of communicating her ideas and producing the works amidst the pandemic.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Recognised for her wall-based works that blur the lines between painting and sculpture, Jane Lee masterfully highlights the tactility of her materials, whether she’s working with paper, canvas or concrete, to create illusory works that challenge and expand audiences’ perceptions of reality.
In her Masters series, Lee references iconic ‘masters’ in western art history, from Johannes Vermeer to Piet Mondrian, that had subconsciously influenced her while she trained as a painter. Yet, as she emphasises their colours and textures and transforms these paintings into highly tactile, three-dimensional pieces, she removes the hallowed, aloof air often surrounding the actual ‘masterpieces’ in prestigious museums, and instead encourages viewers to engage with them in a relaxed way, as if they were ingrained in the everyday.