Neon Parc acknowledges the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung and Bunurong Boon Wurrung as the Traditional Owners and sovereign custodians of the Country on which we operate. We pay our deepest respects to their Elders past and present. Always was, always will be Aboriginal land.

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Spencer Lai
South Yarra
8 Jun.–6 Jul.

Neon Parc is excited to announce ‘Modes’, Spencer Lai’s third solo exhibition with the gallery!

Spencer Lai’s artistic practice draws inspiration from encounters in urban environments, such as walking, shopping and salvaging. These everyday moments guide Lai’s creative approach, allowing him to gather materials from his immediate surroundings and extract imagery, symbols, and language associated with consumer culture.

‘Modes’ suggests a number of interpretations: of being (and relating) in day-to-day life; the shifting nature of psychological states; modalities of representation; approaches to Modernism; and manners or methods of art making.

Featuring intricate drawings, paintings, steel and foam core assemblages, sculptural wall works, the works in ‘Modes’ reinterpret Western and Oriental painting styles and surface treatments to express internal imagery.

A central component of the exhibition is six new steel and foam core assemblages which are reminiscent of mechanical devices, each composed of smaller inset paintings and detailed Sgraffito. These paintings incorporate the traditional Chinese and Japanese ink painting technique of ‘sumi-e’, which attempts to embody the spirit of the natural world, through contrast and harmony. The spiritual and sacred in Lai’s work is contradicted by inexpensive ornamental materials and a profane ‘kitsch’ aesthetic, which heralds the clash between decorative Eastern arts and the Western art historical canon.

Also featured is a suite of delicately crafted drawings on paper, created through an automatic process which Lai describes as a sort of “psychic drawing out”. Through an unconscious mark-making practice, Lai’s drawings incorporate imagery, memories, personal experiences and fictive fantasies. Several of Lai’s themes and motifs reoccur subtly throughout the exhibition: the Buddhist offering of the orange; Modernist architecture; multiple perspective and spatial configurations; the sprout – growth and ‘becoming’; changing of the seasons; and figures between actions and modes of being.

As part of ‘Modes’, Lai has collaborated with Alexis Kanatsios on ‘Psyche’ (2024), an installation which investigates homosexual yearning, desire and memory. In this work a vintage home entertainment system, handmade rug, lamp, found and modified objects create an environment “reminiscent of a child’s primitive view of a loungeroom”. Seen as a whole, the physical environment stands in for complex psychological states; and design and taste are used here to signal one’s position in the world.

At the centre of the installation is a collaborative video work which amalgamates imagery and text found by the artists in the everyday. Phone footage of IKEA showrooms melds with personality test questions; nature is pictured in harmony with overlaid diaristic prose which explores interpersonal relationships and dynamics; connections between the body, the self and space. In this work the two artists wanted to capture the unbridled and provisional homosexual spirit of a space, tapping into the collective psyche of queer longing.

Spencer Lai (b. 1991 Sarawak, Malaysia) is a Naarm/Melbourne based artist interested in the impact of consumerism, cultural objects, and ephemera on identity. Their work engages with a range of artistic mediums, including sculptural compositions, installation and expanded paintings to explore connections between design, education, desire, and the self.

Spencer Lai graduated from Honours at the Victorian College of the Arts in 2014. Working across multiple forms and formats, including sculpture, installation, curation, writing, drawing, Lai’s practice produces associative meaning from a range of accumulated materials that are worked into assemblages, expanded paintings and installations. These materials often include text, found objects, design elements or images from consumer cultures, lifted from thrift stores, replicated, or traced or by chance encounters.

Spencer Lai has exhibited extensively in Australia and internationally. Recent solo exhibitions include ‘Let us be silent so that we may hear the whisper of God …’, Neon Parc Brunswick, 2023; ‘Academy for the Sensitive Arts’, Theta, New York, 2022; ‘A Patience Game’ with Jürgen Baumann, Holden Garage, Berlin, 2022; ‘Oriental Painting.’, Neon Parc, Melbourne, 2022; ‘Comfort the Afflicted’, Envy, Wellington, 2022; ‘The body speaks before it even talks’, 99%, Melbourne, 2022; ‘Huddling, friends with thermal benefits’, Cool Change Contemporary, Perth, 2022; ‘buddhaminefield’, Ge Hinnom Small Group Love, South London, 2021; ‘Improvements and Reproductions’, West Space, Melbourne, 2020; and ‘Air becomes metallic scented as anger is emitted, a bounding animal halts as blood in crimson unfurls in still waterhole’, Kimberly-Klark, New York, 2018.

Spencer Lai’s works are held in private collections in Australia and the United States.

Alexis Kanatsios (b.1999) is a Melbourne-based artist. The ‘object’ figures as a core component in Kanatsios’ practice.Through a number of sculptural and drawing processes, Kanatsios utilises a unique and intuitively derived visual language to explore relationships between form and image. Kanatsios’ work blurs the line between representation and abstraction, appearing at once recognisable and uncanny. Engaging with the aesthetics of design, art history and ‘the everyday’ as tools to navigate curiosity, Kanatsios defines relationships between ‘object’ and audience, creating new contexts for the everyday and fantastical to become increasingly ambiguous.

Recent solo/two-person exhibitions include: ‘Neuro’ (2024) with John Meade, Cathedral Cabinet, Melbourne; Cache (2024), Melbourne; ‘Sex with Men’ (2023), TCB, Melbourne; ‘Temperament’ (2023), Asbestos, Melbourne; ‘Reception’ (2023) with Aden Miller, Bossy’s Gallery, Melbourne. Selected group exhibitions include: ‘Container’ (2023), Final Hot Desert, London; ‘Heavens’ (2023), Al Fresco, Canberra; ‘Farr St ‘(2023), Minerva, Sydney; ‘More Love’ (2022), Asbestos, Melbourne.