VISIBILITY IS A TRAP

Ian Tee

2020
Acrylic, target papers, comic strips, reflective tape and collage on destroyed aluminium composite panel
200 x 150 cm (panel)

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This title is a nod to Michel Foucault’s theory of Panopticism in ‘Discipline and Punish’, in which an individual is kept under constant scrutiny with no retreat or privacy. For Foucault, the panopticon represents the way in which discipline and punishment work in modern society – it is a diagram of power in action because by looking at a plan of the panopticon, one realizes how the processes of observation and examination operate. It induces a sense of permanent visibility that ensures the functioning of authority.

The use of the reflective tape captures a similar tension, its luminosity signals presence but can also be used to demarcate boundaries. Two yellow reflective bands close in on the painting’s composition, directing the observer’s gaze to only a pair of eyes that look back. The X-Men comic page reveals the moment when Magneto informs the New Mutants of Larry Bodine’s demise. Bodine’s characterisation underscores the need for secrecy about his condition but also craves acceptance from his peers.

About the Artist

Ian Tee’s (b. 1994, Singapore) practice investigates the social space of abstraction through questioning surfaces and form. Conflating visual language from the history of painting with the energy of rebellious youth cultures, he is interested in how aesthetic narratives can be reworked and recontextualised. His work manifests in a variety of media— destroyed metal paintings, bleached and dyed textiles, and collage.

Tee’s 'Fire Blanket' series expresses a desire for comfort and protection that is rooted in our intimate relationship with textiles. Its title refers to the woven fibre-glass blankets used to extinguish fires. Here, the material is used to support a patchwork quilt made from fragments of unwanted clothes, scrap fabric and industrial safety materials, such as reflective straps. This is a gesture of recharging and strengthening an object often deemed to be soft and feminine, while recognising the values of care and love embedded in the act of sewing. 

Tee graduated with a Bachelor in Fine Arts from LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore in 2018. He was a recipient of the Ngee Ann Kongsi scholarship and winner of the 2017 Cliftons Art Prize for Singapore. In 2019, Tee presented his first solo exhibition with Yavuz Gallery titled SWEET DREAMS and subsequently; KILL YOUR DARLINGS in 2021.