They say good things come in threes. It is certainly the case for Malaysian artist Sean Lean, who is holding his third solo exhibition with Wei-Ling Gallery. Simply titled 3, the exhibition features a series of triptychs with strong visual imagery that comment on political, social, religious and personal issues. The idea draws from the Christian pictorial convention where the central panel is adjoined by two associated panels to provide an extended narrative or to create intertextual patterns and points of connection.
From an aesthetic point of view, Lean also sought to challenge the inherent symmetry of the traditional triptych form by creating tension, ambiguity and a jarringness that, nevertheless, maintains a unifying line of visual and conceptual thought. Options speaks to the artist on his latest series:
How did the idea for 3 emerge?
Lean: 3 was started as a way to expand my painting practice. I was experimenting with multi-panel works after my last solo show and landed on triptychs as they are the quintessential multi-panel format. The focus is really on the relationships and interplay between the panels, playing with balance and symmetry both visually and conceptually.
Tell us a bit more about your choice of imagery. Some of the images are quite provocative and, coupled with the use of text, seem to be grabbing for attention. What is your intention behind them?
In terms of the subject matter, they are themes that I am always concerned with. Some I have used in my previous works, such as politics, religion and culture. There are a few about personal relationships as well. I also did a piece about the format of the triptych.
Being your third solo exhibition, where do you think you are in your artistic career?
My practice is ever evolving. I have always sought to challenge myself with every new work. There is always a thirst for learning new materials, techniques and adopting a new approach to making art.
'3', Wei-Ling Contemporary, 6th floor The Gardens Mall, KL, until August 5. The gallery is open from 11am to 7pm (Tues-Sun). Call (03) 2282 8323 for more details. This interview first appeared on July 23, 2018 in The Edge Malaysia.