by Ariadna Zierold
Toronto-based illustrator Vanessa (“Ness”) Lee‘s illustrations, ceramics and prints at first glance can be viewed as playful and humorous renditions of familiar Asian icons, from sumo wrestlers to lucky cats to noodle bowls. A closer look reveals a body of work that explores the complex relationship between self and one’s place in contemporary culture and society.
The artist draws on her personal experiences – negotiating what it means to be Hakka-Chinese Canadian, an artist, a young female, a daughter – to portray multifaceted characters, often in vulnerable positions and contexts. At the same time, Ness subtly brings attention to and challenges traditional perceptions of Asian beauty, sexuality, nudity and power, bringing together pieces of her cultural heritage to create a strong and candid visual narrative of her own.