Our first solo graphic art show at, Possible Worlds, is Orientations, featuring the work of Toronto-based illustrator Vanessa (“Ness”) Lee. Ness is a recent graduate from OCAD University in Toronto, but in a few short years has become recognized for her distinctive illustration style and subject matter. Selected as a top illustrator by American Illustration, Society of Illustrators and CMYK magazines, Ness has shown at exhibitions and fairs in Canada and internationally. Her work has also appeared in publications such as Lucky Peach, BUST and Maisonneuve.
Ness’ illustrations, ceramics and prints at first glance can be viewed as playful and humorous renditions of familiar Asian icons, from sumo wrestlers to lucky cats to noodle bowls. A closer look reveals a body of work that explores the complex relationship between self and one’s place in contemporary culture and society.
In her show Orientations, Ness draws on her personal experiences – negotiating what it means to be Hakka-Chinese Canadian, a person of colour, an artist, a young female, a daughter – to portray multifaceted characters, often in vulnerable positions and contexts. At the same time, Ness subtly brings attention to and challenges traditional perceptions of Asian beauty, sexuality, nudity and power, bringing together pieces of her cultural heritage to create a strong and candid visual narrative of her own.
Here’s what Ness had to say about her work: