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This Singapore Artist Handpainted 120 Bricks For One Reason

Singapore artist Mary Bernadette Lee's sculpture at the P.V.S. store in Cathay Cineleisure was one laborious affair. She sheds light on the concept behind it.
singapore artist mary bernadette lee

Mary Bernadette Lee

Artist Mary Bernadette Lee, aka @mrydette on Instagram, is obviously passionate about art (“All I knew”, she tells Female, “is that I wanted to be an artist from the age of 13”). What isn’t so obvious: The strong beliefs she holds that underscore every brush stroke she makes in the process of creating an art piece. Take her exhibition at the Esplanade Tunnel last year: Titled “I See You See Me”, the NTU Visual Communications graduate wanted Singaporeans to go beyond the superficial and appreciate one another’s unique qualities through their art, resulting in a collective mural combining both the artist’s and participants’ visions.

One of her most recent works, dubbed “Power To The People”, is currently on display at the P.V.S. store (#02-025 Cathay Cineleisure) till end April 2016. We speak to Lee on what inspired her to create that particular work, her favourite art spaces in Singapore now and more:


The “I See You See Me” exhibit along the Esplanade Tunnel

Her views on art “I am driven by my belief in art and accessibility that it shouldn’t discriminate or be exclusive. Art should be celebrated by one and all, and should be available to anyone who wishes to express.”

Brands/companies she’s worked with “Dr Martens, Singapore Tourism Board for F1, Rockstar, Kult, Mad Nest, Shophouse & Co and The Esplanade. I am a member of the Organisation of Illustrator Council, and we work with various brands to provide illustrative services. The most recent (venture) was with Gallery & Co. at their opening launch. I will also be working with National Gallery Singapore to create content for workshops every second weekend of the month for a year.”


A piece titled “Subordination” from Lee’s series Institutional Pressure

International artists she admires “Frida Kahlo: She is a figure of courage and fearlessness for me in the way she single-handedly faced her limitations and fears head-on. Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, both of whom are master colourists and have a delightfully childlike quality in their approach, matched by an acute keenness for composition. Egon Shiele’s works are a visual metaphor for pain, suffering and vulnerability, and I value that openness. And Hieronymus Bosch, whose paintings hold a subversive power beneath a hot mess of absurdity and monstrosity.”


A work from “Tell Me Your Story”, another one of Lee’s exhibitions along the Esplanade Tunnel

Local artists she digs “Lucy Davis (my professor in NTU’s Art, Design and Media school), whose interest in local ecology, place and space permeate her works; John Clang – I adore the fact that his works are made up of personal narratives that touch on the fragility of image, the preciousness of relationships and the malleability of photography; and Donna Ong, whose works are consistent yet adventurous with an almost fantastical, dream-like quality.”

Favourite art spaces in Singapore Singapore Tyler Print Institute show very interesting artworks by printmakers all around the world. National Gallery Singapore is my go-to now for a thorough immersion of Singapore and South East Asian art. And the Esplanade Visual Arts team also does a stellar job at portraying artworks in their visual spaces. The Esplanade tunnel is such a prominent and strategic place for the public to access art.”


On display now: “Power To The People”

The concept behind her sculptural work “Based on the song Another Brick in the Wall by Pink Floyd, my work is a declaration against cognitive and sentient control, a mutiny against governed homogeneity and a protestation of the freedom of expression. Through this installation, I want people to recognise that they have control over processing and filtering information generated by the media that could potentially influence their lives. The supremacy of media confluence can easily blind people to homogeneity and we have the power to rise against and above that, as an individual and also as a society.”

On the creative process “All the portraits – each is different to represent our individuality – were hand painted on the bricks. I painted 120 bricks altogether, and it took me about a month and a half to finish it (editor’s note: each brick will be sold for $50 and proceeds will be donated to Baptist Golden Age Centre For The Aged). The installation was done throughout the night before the mall opened for business the following day. It was physically demanding as the bricks were heavy and there was a lot of shifting around to accommodate the little working space I had. As tedious as it sounds, it was also very fulfilling, as this was the first time I embarked on an artistic installation in a commercial shopping mall. The irony of it amuses me.”


Photo of Mary Bernadette Lee Marisse Isabel Caine

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