B. 1996, Singapore

E Mae Lee is a mixed media artist who works with intense sensitivity to materiality and research. Her practice encompasses the sculptural arrangement of materials, objects, forms, processes and imprints which conjure tensions that parallel those seen in the between-ness present in our lived environment. In her own words, she tells us more about her practice.

Leaky Vessels (2019)

I work pretty instinctively when it comes to materials. I can’t explain it, but there are just some materials and textures that I am more excited to work with. Over the years, I have used plaster, concrete, clay, string, fabric and paper. In my most recent projects, I have been obsessed with the interaction between clay, ink and paper. The essence and heart of my works are inextricably linked to what it is made of; its physical presence and impact in a room is possible because of its materiality.

Call it sweet reconciliation or a coincidental confluence, elements of my own cultural research weaved into my own messy experiments with gritty and unpredictable clay, liquid, and fibrous paper. Both strands of research had a strange kind of magnetism towards each other. Perhaps it was my frame of mind while investigating aspects of cultural theory and spatial planning, my subconscious, which drew my fascination towards the curious parallels that would surface while observing the interactions between materials.

One major source of thought fodder has been Gaston Bachelard’s poetic meditations on the lived space in his work The Poetics of Space (1958). Initially, my fascination with Bachelard’s work manifested in my practice as an exploration into the domestic space, objects and forms. More recently, this study into the poetics of home has developed into an interest in the formal qualities of the vessel which suggest encapsulation, security, dwelling, and roundness. I have also widened my inquiry to encompass aspects of the built environment and the compartmentalisation of life. My practice evolved in more formally abstract and fluid ways, with greater attention to the juxtaposition of materials and forms.

Slippage (2018)

A big lightbulb moment happened when I started pouring ink into unfired clay vessels. The action of doing so was almost a violent introduction. It broke the porous clay down into an earthy sludge, creating imprints, ‘stains’ of clay and ink on the surface they lay on. This started my pursuit of the unpredictable space that exists between material binaries (solid/liquid, round/straight), which developed alongside research into Homi Bhabha’s theories on the fluid nature of the ‘home’ and cultural identity in postcolonial contexts. Such qualities against the regimented physical backdrop of the built environment; life organised and constructed by meticulous urban planning, has become an area of consistent interest.

There isn’t one particular artist that inspires my work. But recently, I’ve been pretty interested in Eastern aesthetic sensibilities especially those surrounding ink painting. I’ve also been reading up on the Mono-ha movement of the 1960s. Beautiful stuff!

Check out her work here: