At A GATHERING OF THE TRIBES GALLERY, NYCMarch 10th– April 10th, 2011

In the Southeast Asian Art world, identity issues are often contrived and styled after well known western artists. Responding to the pressures of the commercial art market, it is common to see paintings in the style of a modern or postmodern traditions, mimicking artists like Basquiat or Rothko with the addition of Malay wording and local iconography.

Yeoh Kean Thai and Zac Lee represent a different spectrum of Southeast Asian art, reflecting in their work the political and social contexts of the region. For residents of emerging regions, like award winners Yeoh Kean Thai and Zac Lee, The truth as felt and comprehended, is often incredible and requires one to engage in shadow play, theatrics and investigation. The Fiction and Reality, shadows of each other, are what is presented.


The exhibition Truth & Fiction Are Not Strangers engages with the interplay common between fiction and truth that exists in the political and social climate of Southeast Asian countries. This show explores reality as a fictionalized creation of the politics, and fiction as an indirect expression, or a metaphor for the truth. The artists deal with these elements in this show, through a selection of works in different media. Yeoh Kean Thai presents environmental concerns through a movie script presentation of paintings and installation. The works are part of a greater whole that he showed in Kuala Lumpur earlier this year. Zac Lee uses veiled SE Asian iconography.

We see that the Truth as presented is often Fiction, and conversely, what is speculated as the incredible and impossible, becomes the Truth.


YEOH KEAN THAI has developed an artistic language using metal to comment on environment, social identity and individual introspection. His works involve degradation, referencing the reality of a degrading social and environmental order. For a significant part of his aesthetic career he has documented processes of disruption, corruption and manipulation of environment.

His focus on the visual consequences has created an aesthetic vocabulary that adeptly voices concerns for environmental and social issues, from contemporary and historical perspectives, and has garnered international recognition through prestigious awards, including the Phillip Morris Art Award (Malaysia), the Freeman Fellowship, 2008 and most recently, the Commonwealth Award - International Art Residency. He works in a variety of media, focusing mainly on painting and metal work.(Background Article:


ZAC LEE examines political issues and cloaks his distasteful and controversial observations and investigations into wonderfully fluid strokes and images. The images represent sublime behaviors and relationships, presenting 'trace evidence' of social interactions and presentation. Objects and forms are metaphors for individuals and community, and he uses traditional folklore and SE Asian iconography to speak of political intrigue. Lee was trained in Chinese calligraphy and traditional painting genres , and enjoys experimentation. He has incorporated elements of painting, silk screening and digital imaging. After his important residency at Three Shadows Art Center, Beijing (where he was the first Malaysian), he begins to incorporate photographic techniques of shadow play and images, into current works.He is also a former Freeman Fellowship award winner from Vermont Studio Center.