September 17, 2019
Some Place Safe
Yi-Shuan Lee is a Taiwanese-Canadian artist based in Toronto, Canada. Lee’s multidisciplinary practice includes drawing, painting, sculpture, and film. His works features striking plays on odd and surreal narratives along with a cinematic approach to his palette. Lee has exhibited works across China, Taiwan, Japan, Italy, France, America, and Canada.
What are you working on right now?
Earlier in the summer I completed a body of work that I have been working on for the past two years, and exhibited them separately in three different countries. Right now I am finishing up a commission for an album cover and just started doing research for my next series of works.
Describe your studio space – What is your ideal environment to work in?
Funny how this question came up. I just picked up my keys last weekend for my new studio. It’s in an old monastery, with some really nice patterned wallpapers and leftover chairs and tables that I bought from the church for 50$. Ideally I would love to have a bigger studio space so that I can move-in a full couch to rest my back during breaks.
How has your works developed since you first started painting (Making works)?
I don’t even know where to start with this question… I guess a lot, and it’s still constantly developing. The key is to trust in myself with whatever ideas that pop in my head. Thinking within your head can only get you so far, and my practice is to execute my thoughts into physical objects. I can only own it once I’ve created it. But as far as development, I guess I am just more aware of why I am doing what I do.
There’s a surreal quality to your recent works, where do you draw inspiration from to create these scenes?
Well my most recent works were solitarily focused on painting. And my understanding of the medium is that all paintings are and should be surreal. If I were to depict something “real”, then photography would be a way easier and efficient tool to compose my imagery. My greatest inspirations are, my current surroundings and obviously myself. Keeping up to date with what’s going on in the world also helps.
“My greatest inspirations are, my current surroundings and obviously myself.”
How do you title your pieces/how integral to your painting is the title of the work?
The title matters a lot for my works as of late, only because it allows me the opportunity to educate my audience with new terminologies from East Asia. As a first generation immigrant, and fully capable of three languages, I’ve realized that a lot of stereotypes or misinterpretations on cultures comes from our own personal ignorance of not wanting to learn and teach ourselves. I mean… learning a new
language sitting in a classroom isn’t as fun as it sounds… That’s why I often convert Mandarin straight into English, and as a result the titles sometime may sound off or perhaps funny. Hopefully that is an interesting entry point for people to learn about my culture.
What is your favorite subject to paint?
There isn’t a specific reoccurring subject that I favor. I guess I mostly make works based on certain social issues and certain people who I care about that have affected me.
Are there any recurring themes you find yourself coming back to?
>>>(I propose a different question)
What is your definition of making it as an artist?
Personally, if I am able to continue doing what I love most for as long as I can, that will be the greatest success. On a much bigger perspective, if my love and passion towards what I do can inspire others to pursue their own dreams, that would be a huge accomplishment.
If you’re not painting, what are you doing?
Because I am in the studio a lot, I try to be outside whenever I can and get inspired. If you are not living, then there is very little honestly to your works. You’d be surprised how much you can learn over coffee with strangers.
“On a much bigger perspective, if my love and passion towards what I do can inspire others to pursue their own dreams, that would be a huge accomplishment”
Interview: Lauren Armstrong