Capturing moments of a journey


source: The Star Malaysia, Sunday Education, Sunday 22 June 2008

LEE Hui Lian goes everywhere with a sketchpad and camera. Whenever something catches her eye, she stops and does a quick sketch. If time does not permit the pause, she snaps a few shots then files them away for reference.

Back in her own room, the sketches and photos become the focal points of paintings which serve as a pictorial album of places the 23-year-old architecture student has visited over the years.

Painting is second nature to Hui Lian, now home in Klang for a break after completing her third year at the National University of Singapore. It is her way of capturing “a moment of elation or admiration”, with gentle strokes and soft hues that evoke a touch of nostalgia.

Three years ago, Hui Lian exhibited a series of paintings of her hometown at Singapore’s National Library, on the theme, “My Journey”. Since then, she has ventured further abroad and done more works that “recreate and express the wonderment of globe-trotting”.

She will put these up at her second solo exhibition, “My Journey Revisited”, at Hotel Equatorial Kuala Lumpur, from tomorrow till June 29.

There will be 38 pieces on show, mostly watercolours inspired by visits to China (Wuhan and Beijing), Hong Kong, and the United States (New York), a series on flowers, particularly the lotus (lian, in Chinese), as well as an installation work, Judgement of Freedom, that she created four years ago.

Watercolours and ink are her choice mediums because they best suit the pensive nature of her works. There is also the challenge of learning how best to control the colours and the timing of her strokes.

Often, what makes it onto Hui Lian’s canvas may not be obvious to the passer-by.


“When I go to a place, I pick out the alleys and the little cracks on a building. They are more interesting and tell us more about the place,” she says.

Hui Lian has been studying in Singapore since she was 15, as an Asean scholar, and hopes to complete her Masters in Architecture. She chose this course because “it is closest to art and I feel a sense of achievement after each project.

“In art, you have free expression and personal input. Architecture calls for structure and specific requirements; I am able to express an idea and make it practical.”

Architecture also lays the foundation for a career in graphic design or interior decor.

“I have never perceived myself as a full-time artist because I know the struggles involved,” says Hui Lian, the second child of Lee Kian Seng and Shoko Lee, both Klang-based artists. Her sister Hui Ling, a Liberal Arts graduate from Sarah Lawrence College in New York, teaches Art and Art History part-time at the PJ College of Art and Design.

In August, Hui Lian will head for Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, for an exchange programme. “My JourneyRevisited” is her way of self-funding the trip. She also wants to donate 10% of proceeds from sales of her works to the Sichuan earthquake victims.