Returning to Mother Nature - in three basic shapes

Lee Teck Suan with his largest work to date at the show, Beyond Babel, titled No. 1 Jing Shan Tian.
Lee Teck Suan with his largest work to date at the show, Beyond Babel, titled No. 1 Jing Shan Tian.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Singapore's China-based contemporary ink painter Lee Teck Suan is holding his first solo exhibition here in 27 years.

Beyond Babel features 25 of his recent modern abstracts in Chinese ink and acrylic paint, including his largest work to date, which measures 2.1m by 5.4m.

The show - the second stop on its seven-city tour, which started in Hong Kong earlier this year - opened last Saturday at Soobin Art Int'l.

Lee's last solo show was held at the former National Museum Art Gallery in 1989.

  • VIEW IT / BEYOND BABEL

  • WHERE: Soobin Art Int'l, 04-90 Lobby E, Ubi Techpark, 10 Ubi Crescent

    WHEN: Till Oct 30, from 11am to 6pm daily

    ADMISSION: Free

    INFO: 6837-2777

Lee, 63, a Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts alumnus who won the second prize at the UOB Painting of the Year Award in 1984, is a former PSA Corp senior officer who left home to work in the shipping and logistics industries in Hong Kong and, subsequently, China.

His works were exhibited in Paris and New York in the 1980s, and in many other cities, including those in China, Japan, South Korea and Thailand, over the past three decades.

The title of his latest show here comes from Chinese art critic and historian Pan Yaochang who, in his 2004 book on contemporary Chinese art, described Lee as an important overseas Chinese abstract art painter whose works he called "beyond Babel", a reference to the Bible's Tower of Babel, to show his effective use of an abstract language.

That inspired Lee, a divorcee with two grown-up children, to create his present series of works in 2009 titled The Three Representing Jing (well), Shan (mountain), Tian (farmland), which are represented by the geometric symbols of a circle, triangle and square.

"With my creation of the three international geometric symbols which correspond with the three Chinese pictographs representing the well, mountain and farmland, I can paint without any other landscape references in my abstract works," he says.

All the works at the show revolve round the same theme and are not for sale. "One message I want to put forward in my series on the well, mountain and farmland is perhaps my belief that man may eventually need to return to the basics or Mother Nature, to survive after all," he says.

The Singapore show should have taken place in June.

Lee, who is better known as Li Dezhuang in recent years, says: "It was delayed partly because of difficulties transporting my works over, especially the huge one which I am showing for the first time since I painted it in my studio in Zhejiang two years ago."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 18, 2016, with the headline 'Returning to Mother Nature - in three basic shapes'. Print Edition | Subscribe