Lee Li Xian
Self-taught illustrator from Singapore who studied Apparel Design and Merchandising at Temasek Polytechnic. Her works are incredibly original.
On Behance, a creative portfolio network, Xian’s collections are arranged by thematic title, such as “My Machine Pal” (above) and “Color me and tell me I’m Colorful”. These unassuming works have a striking originality. Evocative of children’s book art, and done mainly in watercolors, there is a subdued, non-aggressive quality to the illustrations, but the themes are often complex and thought-provoking.
Right now I’m looking at “My Machine Pal” and Xian’s art has so many connotations with our modern age of technology and gadgets. It doesn’t take a leap of the imagination to realize that many of us are “closest friends” with our machines. Take away my cellphone or MacBook and watch all hell break loose. I’m emotionally connected to my machines. Xian’s work captures this reality so well–and it is her unfeigned, guileless style which makes me smile at my own absurd behaviors. Her work brings me closer to myself and my own reflections. It is not an overt conceptual statement; it is merely suggestive and light-hearted, though pointing to a deeper truth.
In the collection “Color me and tell me I’m Colorful,” Xian goes further with coupling an adult motif and a guileless, childlike style. The grotesque and bizarre enter the picture. A creepy, big-bellied man with one black pupil and one blue looks up at us. Presumably dancing a jig, he bounces (the curlicues are shown) on wooden shoes as if on a pogo-stick. His ragged mustache, hanging down like seaweed, adds to the overall creepiness of this water-colored leprechaun. What a wonderful sense of style Xian has–to put a tightly-wrapped argyle shirt and knickers on him!
He may be winking at us or he may be leering upwards. This half-menacing, half-sweet depiction frightens while at the same time evokes a latent sympathy for the character. The rest of the illustrations in the collection seem to depict lonely characters, either monstrous-looking, crying in panic, or staring into the back of a mirror and appearing in the opposite end.
I love the white space around the illustrations. The watercolors are brought out by that white space, and the overall effect is one of incomplete beauty. Like a child’s notebook where each page has one sparse drawing on it, Xian’s art mingles innocence and emptiness while conveying an original intelligence.