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Ballarat, Victoria, Australia
|Alma mater||Ballarat University|
|Occupation||Artist, writer, comedian|
|Home town||Ballarat, Victoria, Australia|
|Movement||Postmodernism, Pop Surrealism|
|Medium||Stand-up, theatre, books, art|
Ash Lieb (born 22 August 1982) is an Australian artist, writer and comedian, known for his surreal humour and art. Born in Ballarat, Ash Lieb began exhibiting art at eight years of age, and at the age of fifteen, wrote his first novel, The Secret Well. Throughout his career, Lieb has created a diverse range of artworks, books, short films, and comedic performances, which have often possessed philosophical or psychiatric undertones.
Ash Lieb's artistic career began in July 1991 at the Ballarat Civic hall site when, at eight years of age, he held his first solo exhibit Old Shoe. The exhibit was composed of drawings and paintings of lost objects and fragments of human forms. By the age of eleven, Lieb had held a total of five solo exhibitions and was involved in countless group exhibitions around Australia.  In 1994, Lieb contracted a debilitating illness which lasted into his first year of high school at Damascus College. In 1995, a tumour pressing on his spinal cord was discovered and removed at Melbourne's Royal Children's Hospital.
At the age of fifteen in 1998, Ash Lieb wrote his first novel The Secret Well. The story, set in the aftermath of the mysterious disappearance and grim discovery of young girl's body, is about a young girl and her mysterious neighbour who soon come to unravel the terrifying secrets around them. Lieb dedicated the story to his childhood friend who had died years earlier. In 1999, at the age of sixteen, Ash Lieb wrote his second novel Bleach over several months while skipping English classes at his high school, which he felt was wasting his time. The story is about an alienated anarchist looking for an escape from the emptiness of high-school, who, after a chance meeting with a girl, is put on a collision course with a fate even his darkest thoughts never imagined. Lieb's books can be found on every populated continent of the world, with stores holding them in more than fifteen countries.
After completing high school, Ash Lieb enrolled in a visual arts degree at Ballarat University. However, by the age of nineteen, he had left the course after his vision began to deteriorate and he began to suffer from headaches and anxiety. In the summer of 2003, it was discovered that these issues were brought on by an aggressive clear cell meningioma. With an uncertain future, Lieb went on to write his third novel, The Technicolor Transgressions of the Blue Rose, in the weeks leading up to having dangerous brain surgery that he was convinced he wouldn't survive. The Technicolor Transgressions of the Blue Rose is a story about a color blind thief with a fictional form of color blindness, where everything yellow is seen as blue, which was inspired by the artist's own form of red-green color blindness. In the story, characters have blue hair, the sun is blue, gold coins are blue, and so on.
Lieb returned to university in 2005, where he began to create his art in a digital style, combining his previous skills in drawing and painting with photography and other new techniques. However, in 2007, despite the favorable conditions of the surgery he underwent in 2003, Lieb required further surgery and radiation therapy, whilst undertaking the final year of his visual arts degree in digital art. In 2009, having been writing jokes for almost a decade since his final year of high school in 2000, Lieb performed on stage for the first time while living in Brisbane. The following year, having returned to Ballarat, Lieb performed his surreal humor and one-liners at the Geelong Performing Arts Centre and Fitzroy's Evelyn Hotel to mass crowds. A year later, having only ever previously exhibited his drawings and paintings, Lieb exhibited his digital artworks for the first time in his solo exhibition The Meaning of Life in April 2011. The imagery in the exhibit was a collection that spawned out of the artist's surreal humor that he credits Woody Allen and Mitch Hedberg for having inspired in his youth, while the title of the exhibit is an allusion to the absurd humor of Monty Python. In 2012, Ash Lieb was honored as one of the city of Ballarat's 40 people under 40, and as a leader in the industry.
The beginning of 2013 saw Ash Lieb open his exhibition How not to be seen at a small gallery in the artist's home town of Ballarat. The both humorous and philosophically surreal exhibit dealt with the dual meanings of absurdism. A few months later in April, Lieb released his first joke book Funny Guy after more than a decade of writing and performing his absurdist style of humour. In October, Ash Lieb unveiled his exhibition of The Holy Grail. The philosophically absurd exposition dealt with such concepts as the meaning of life, philosophy, existentialism, vision quests and animal spirits. The artist's artwork Weyekin also featured in the Blake Prize for spiritual art Director's Cut exhibition throughout the beginning of 2014.
Lieb's art and style of humour deals in the absurd. While one part deals with the laughter, nonsense and ridicule of absurdity or surreal humour, the other deals with the philosophical definition of absurdism regarding the conflict between pursuing the meaning of life and the inability to find it. Lieb's digital works were initially inspired by artists such as Woody Allen and Andy Warhol. His style consists of complex pop surrealist digital montages using photographs and images. Examples of themes in his works include a recurring milk carton, medical stitches, and corporate brand names. Much of the artist's imagery and characters are, to some degree, a recreation of the bizarre imagery that the artist experiences during brief spells of derealisation that occurs during short temporal lobe seizures that first appeared as a result of a brain tumour in the early 2000s. This warped déjà vu dreamlike imagery extends throughout much of the artist's anthology of creations.
Inspired by the comedians that he watched when he was younger, Ash Lieb began writing jokes when he was still in high school at the age of 16. In 2009, after refining his style and humour for many years, Lieb performed at open mic spots for the first time while living in Brisbane. In February 2010, at the age of 27, Ash Lieb made his professional stage debut at the Geelong performing arts centre, where comedian Rod Quantock introduced him to a jubilant mass crowd. Quantock would later declare, "It was truly hilarious and brilliantly original comedy." Blending his observations with techniques, such as absurdity, wordplay, non-sequiturs and paraprosdokians, Lieb's wit is always calculated, smart and original. Consisting of concise jokes and one-liners, Lieb's act is distinguished by the manner of speech he adopted early in his career, his abrupt delivery, and his peculiar stage presence. Lieb is a unique and original writer and performer, and is often a wildcard. Adam Greenberg once wrote, "In shows where every performer is the same, Ash Lieb is the needle in the haystack." Much like the humour of Woody Allen, Lieb often makes light of intellectuals, especially those with somewhat absurd or impossible claims: "Sir Isaac Newton discovered gravity in the 1680's. Before then, there were people floating all over the place, and cats and dogs and little old ladies went missing all the time!" Lieb's first collection of short humorous essays and one-liners was published in 2013.
The literature of Ash Lieb has been influenced by authors such as Charles Dickens and Daniel Keyes, and like the work of Dickens and Keyes, Lieb's literary style is marked by a profuse linguistic creativity. The narrative voice within Lieb's stories often becomes a meaningful motif within the narrative, where repetition of certain lines or words within the story is a common characteristic of his style. This is often achieved by usage of anaphora, a rhetorical device where words are repeated for emphasis. In Lieb's story The secret well the recurring word "old" is used as a motif in such a way as to suggest that the character is growing up, getting old and leaving all behind that is her youth. In recognition of Charles Dickens' influence, Lieb's character Sara Charlie Dickens from his story The secret well was named in his honour. Lieb's stories are often a mixture of fantasy and realism, and often fall within the genres of absurdist or transgressive fiction. As in most transgressive fiction, Lieb's characters often feel marginalized or confined by the norms and expectations of society, and so they often break free or act out in self-destructive ways. Art and literature critic Trey Whitman once wrote, "Lieb's literature encompasses the nihilism of the grunge generation and the iconoclasm of the beat generation to form an anarchy filled madness that swells throughout the pages like the way drunken insects must fly." The usage of eye dialect in The Technicolor transgressions of the blue rose was inspired by the story Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes. In Keyes' story, Charlie's narration begins filled with spelling errors and awkwardly constructed sentences, but after a procedure to improve his intelligence, the narration advances with improved accuracy in spelling, grammar, punctuation, and word choice. The character's regression is later conveyed by the loss of these skills. Lieb's use of eye dialect has drawn comparisons with such writers as Irvine Welsh, who is known for having written phonetically in his native Edinburgh Scots dialect within the story Trainspotting, and also Hubert Selby Jr, who phonetically deployed street slang, common speech, argot and scatology in the story Requiem for a Dream.