Wei-Ling Gallery is pleased to announce ‘china’ by Malaysian artist Sean Lean.

This time around, I am looking outside of myself more, as in looking at China politically, socially and attempting to incorporate those issues into my work.” – Sean Lean

A continuation of his previous two exhibitions, ‘Motherland’ (2015) and ‘M2’ (2020) in respectively, ‘china’ is Sean’s investigation into his heritage and personal cultural history which deals with the Chinese culture.

Breaking out from previous formats of squares and rectangles, the artist’s works are cut into the shapes of source materials he references, of Chinese porcelain. Half of the series is fashioned out of aluminium, and the other half using mild steel, the latter chosen because of its propensity to show rust.

I really want to show the process in the final works, and accentuating the quality of the materials used. It’s not so much of a permanent material, rust changes with time. I want to show that to the viewer. As for the other half of the works, aluminium does not corrode. It’s heavier than canvas, but lighter than steel.” 

His aluminium based works comprise two sections welded together, in the shape of the shadow of a pot, and within the ‘darkness’ dwells the political and cultural issues that concerns him most.

Using metal paint, automative components and tools, the works are sectionalised, the reference materials segmented, and in between lies either the material or paint used. It is Sean’s way of forcefully ‘inserting’ himself into his art as opposed to just duplicating or replicating a particular work. The biggest sections of the process put into his works are the rust effects, to break the illusion, the immersion, and to put into focus a sense of transience – that things change, that they are beyond the artist’s control. It is very much in line with his views about culture; it is ever-shifting and ungovernable.

china’ is about the artist’s doubts, and as he postulates, “It comes naturally when investigating something as complex as the ‘idea’ of China, and perhaps that is why my shadow pieces darken considerably, and the more research I do, the less certain I am about the issues that I am tackling. At some point, information from both sides seem to lean into propaganda. I question everything, from sources of information to authorship.”  

china‘ is featured at Wei-Ling Contemporary from 6th December 2022 – 14th January 2023.

Wei-Ling Contemporary is located at 2nd Floor, Wei-Ling Gallery Annexe, No 8, Jalan Scott, Brickfields, 50470 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Admission hours are Tuesday – Friday 10am – 6pm, Saturday 10am – 5pm.

Exhibition is open by appointment only. For appointments and further assistance, please contact +60322601106 or e-mail


Sean Lean’s work often deals with the issues of fragmented identities and the contradictions between traditional Eastern values and the lure of Western popular culture. And through it, he branches out with his own history and personal memory and reflects on the events that have shaped his country and his region. Sean traces social, political, and religious tensions, disparities, and engages with stories that have shaped the collective memory of his region.

Interrogating identity, navigating history, and questioning ways of being is a thread that runs throughout Lean’s practice. His previous exhibitions have followed a similar path. Through ‘Motherland’ (2015) the artist examined the core of what it means to be Chinese, questioning the shifting definitions/criterion of what it takes to be a Chinese person, and the generational loss and gains of a culture inherited and gradually diluted.

In his process, he leans towards methods that were more “industrial”, and akin to techniques used in automotive painting. The artist feels that the exploration of methods that are more “mechanised” is more relevant and reflective of the time we live in.

M2’, Lean’s most recent show in 2020, is a continuation of ‘Motherland’ and explored many similar concepts and ideas as Motherland. Lean treated his subject matter here with an undeniable sense of play and light heartedness this time, refusing to be bogged down by seriousness and guilt when discussing his cultural past.

In 2018, he was one of 6 artists from around the world commissioned by KENZO, in collaboration with Tiger Beer and WWF to work on a project called ‘Rare Stripes’ – a collection of garments inspired by actual stories of the wild tiger. Sean Lean’s design of Kamrita was very apt, as it showcased three sets of paw prints in different colours, signifying the Himalayan tigress with her two cubs walking through the forest floor. For years, Kamrita was “WWF’s adopted tiger and a symbol of hope for her whole species”. The collection was unveiled at the Ginza Six KENZO store in Tokyo, and was available in limited collection. He was also commissioned by Harper’s Bazaar magazine to create a cover in 2017.