Her breakthrough arrived via the photocopier, when she copied an impression by [15th century Belgian] Jan Van Eyck and grew to become fascinated by the sooty, carbonised transformation that had taken position. Running the copy through the device once again and all over again built the picture progressively darker, as if the mists of time ended up closing in. She had hit upon a system that alluded to the two our estrangement from heritage and the innovative exhaustion of the existing.
As this was the heyday of the brief-lived Postmodernist trend, these themes ended up really congenial, even stylish. Lee’s operate was viewed as a variety of strategic appropriation, a essential commentary on the traditions and institutions of art. She suggests she was “grateful” for these interpretations, but now realises there were being further motivations at perform.
Whilst continue to witnessed as a great appropriator, Lee hit on an additional stylistic innovation. She would trace the outlines of a favorite Outdated Grasp portray onto canvas, include the floor with wax, and scrape out a dim, shadowy edition of the picture in which a smothering blackness was tinged with a bloody crimson or an evocative cobalt blue. These photos had a serious feeling of drama, and have not shed their edge. 1 do the job, White Sacrament (1985), was obtained by James Mollison for the Countrywide Gallery of Australia. It capabilities El Greco’s St. Andrew holding a white cross that glows like two fluorescent light tubes by Dan Flavin.
The reference to a properly-acknowledged Minimalist was not fully coincidental, as Lee had an abiding desire in abstract painters these types of as Mark Rothko and Advertisement Reinhardt. Her shadowy appropriations of the Aged Masters may possibly be witnessed as a way of combining past and existing, as if the figures of Renaissance portray ended up seething beneath a layer of Minimalist blankness. The heroes of myth and the Bible struggled towards a billowing darkness that symbolised the spiritual fog of the current.
While nevertheless doing the job by way of this collection, Lee experienced an epiphany whilst talking on a forum. “I’m performing these paintings for the reason that I’m declaring I belong to the West,” she mentioned, then quickly realised that individuals who seriously belong to the West really do not have to declare anything at all – it goes without having expressing.
But if Lee wasn’t “of the West”, neither was she of the East. Trapped someplace in among, she started to reconsider her operate so far. Could it be that her fascination with copies sprang from the point that she herself was a copy? She was the copy of a Chinese man or woman with none of the cultural associations, an Aussie woman who would under no circumstances fit the stereotypes.
From the early to mid 1990s, every little thing began to improve, with multi-panelled wall items in which printed faces alternate with splashes of ink and blocks of shiny, pure color. These are transitionary is effective, motivated by her embrace of Zen (or Ch’an) Buddhism, which drastically altered her worldview.
The get the job done Lee has designed in excess of the previous 2½ a long time is the fruit of profound introspection. She deserted the Aged Masters in favour of her personal family members pics, scaled up, toned gray, offered like episodes from a dream. She went to China to review calligraphy and found she most well-liked to drip and splash ink onto a floor, fairly than slave absent at people she could not read. Her url with the past lay in the medium itself, with a common language of gesture as opposed to the codes of a distinct script.
Lee’s acceptance of her own dual identification has led to an exploration of binary opposites, these as fireplace and water, issue and void. She has developed will work by burning holes into large parts of paper, or by splashing molten direct on to the floor of a foundry. Both these actions integrate a mixture of management and randomness. She will decide on an over-all structure, but each gap manufactured with a soldering iron entails a spontaneous determination.
Lee’s acceptance of her personal twin identity has led to an exploration of binary opposites, this sort of as fireplace and water, subject and void.
When it arrives to flinging molten metallic, almost everything depends on where by she destinations her palms on the put into action and the electric power of the throw. Every single frozen splatter retains its liquid visual appeal. She imposes get on these styles by arranging them in a geometric type on the wall.
The surprising fruits of Lee’s journey into the self is that she is getting to be recognised as a maker of substantial-scale public sculptures. She has experienced a succession of operates mounted in cities in China and Australia, including The Lifetime of Stars (2018) in entrance of the Artwork Gallery of South Australia and she just lately gained a commission for China Town, New York.
For the MCA exhibition, Lee has designed a room-sized set up referred to as Moon in a Dew Drop, which makes use of closely pierced slabs of paper to conjure a layering influence. As a result of 1 set of circles we see an additional and yet another. As we transfer into the room we expertise a transforming set of designs, switching shadows on the wall.
In entrance of the MCA, struggling with Round Quay, Lee’s sculpture Key Earth of a Starlight Ember has turn into Sydney’s new favorite selfie magnet. A 5-metre-large ellipsis produced from stainless metal, the area characteristics a mass of little holes. At evening the sculpture is lit from in, turning it into a glowing eyesight of the cosmos, a extensive eye-formed cluster of stars tethered by some miracle to a humble pedestal.
Community sculpture is the lead to of additional arguments and scandals than nearly any other branch of the visual arts, but Lindy Lee – an artist at the time identified for her photocopies – has found a method that is satisfying each public and cognoscenti. As the title implies, Key World retains its tricks until eventually soon after darkish, but even in wide daylight this mirror-dazzling ring of stainless steel has a seductive existence. It’s ironic, but in the long run inspirational, that an artist who experienced to battle to fully grasp her very own position in the earth is now making functions that handle the universe.
Lindy Lee: Moon in a Dew Fall is at the Museum of Up to date Art right up until February 28.
John McDonald is an artwork critic and frequent columnist with Excellent Weekend.