FIELDTESTED | Mary Bernadette Lee

As an artist based in Singapore, Mary Bernadette Lee finds great connection in the relationship between her art and the audience. And it is in this novelty that grounds her inspiration to create. Read on to find out more about her most recent exhibition in Singapore Art Museum and her journey as an artist.

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Tell us more about your past exhibition, To the Ends of the Earth, at the Imaginarium 2017. How did this come together and how do the dots connect?

“To the Ends of the Earth” is the theme that ties all the artist’s works together at Imaginarium 2017. It suggests an ambitious expression of immeasurable vastness that incites a sense of wonderment and curiosity towards what is unknown. There is no semblance of an ending or a beginning, but simply an implication of directive movement; Onward and expansive made into existence that is open to light and vision, or the absence of light and vision.

Personally, I interpreted “To the Ends of the Earth” as a journey to as far-wide as possible with a sense of Home when homeward bound. It is a return to a familiar space. “Wanderland” is a recreation of a childhood experience of exploration, imagination, play and discovery. I grew up and still live in the same area since I was born. Surrounded by nature, I often found myself foraging through the forested area. It is in this place and space where I often found quietness, solace, play, adventure and inspiration. As I grew older, nature was often a space where I find myself in, cocooned and safe. I often found comfort and excitement in the same sense of Home whenever I travel to places where nature abounds. This feeling never left me, I realized. Home is not a place, but a space in which I call my own.

I wanted to create a space where the immediate sense of a place is comforting, joyful and exciting. I wanted the space to incite my audience to stay to play and wander to wonder. I feel that this is the sentiment that creates a bond between people and space. When a person is invested in a place, a space is created. There were a few ways in which I endeavoured to create a sense of Home. One of which was to play with light and shadows. The book “In Praise of Shadows” by Junichiro Tanizaki was very inspiring to me, and this quote sums up “Wanderland” succinctly, “We find beauty not in the thing itself but in the patterns of shadows, the light and the darkness, that one thing against another creates. Were it not for shadows, there would be no beauty”

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Secondly, colors, shapes and structures to provide a sense of inclusion and imagination was used to create a sense of space. In the book “And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief As Photos”, John Berger said, “It is thanks to the visible that one recognizes space as the precondition for physical existence. The visible brings the world to us [and] the visible with its space also takes the world away from us.” Similarly, in encountering “Wanderland”, this visual experience of absence enables man to engage with his own imagination for it is within the comfort of his own inner space that he constructs meaning when play becomes imagination. “Wanderland” invites the audience to create their own narratives and adventures by drawing them into a maze of colors, shadows and obscure landscapes. They are also deliberately encouraged to meander within the hanging soft structures to create movement and sound. Through this shared kinetic energy, “Wanderland” becomes a playground where both art & audience co-exist to bring meaning to one another.

Allowing my audience to breathe and create within their own inner space has always been one of my motivations in my art practice. It is also a personal space in which I am consciously kinder to myself in my ways of expression because it is in this that I find freedom to explore and discover.

What do you intend to express with your art?

My art is dominantly made out of images. Imaginarium is possibly my first foray into 3D structures and textile installation. Regardless, what I want to express with my art is to encourage a way of seeing and then, experiencing. This is what I believe in – How my art interacts with another is possibly through a shared experience, and this commonality is the relationship between things and ourselves; A resonation. I believe that this mutuality enables understanding in a language that is only personal to the maker and the receiver. Or, it could reveal worlds unknown to you, or bring to light personal truths privy to your own experience and beliefs. That kind of relationship brings existence to art and audience. One cannot exist without the other.

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What are some of the challenges and blessings of being a young artist?

Staying true to myself can be challenging in a world where survival is vital. There are so many ways one can lose sight of one’s visions, dreams, and conviction in pursuit of power, fame and money. But the blessing comes in recognizing that these are not the things I pursue in the grand scheme of things. This daily introspection and revelation keeps me grounded in pursuing my goals with honesty, integrity and tenacity.

I think it’s also easy to be sucked into the belief that the grass is greener on the other side, which sometimes can hinder personal growth. But the alternate perspective is, the grass is greener where you water it. The blessing here is, we have all the resources at our fingertips wherever we choose to go. It then begs the question of – how do we utilize what we already have to create more?

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What’s a quote you carry with you?

“Look back on a life well-lived”

How would you like to be remembered?

As someone who gave her all to better the world around her through her art and by being herself.

We are inspired by Mary’s inspiration behind her creative spirit and are proud to have her as Fieldtesters, a group of inspiring individuals that test MATTER products in their everyday journeys of passion, to help us improve durability and design. Mary is using the Leharia Charcoal Pouch.


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