230 × 152cm irreg.
Museum of Contemporary Art, donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program by the artist, 2013
The Tenderness of Rain and Tearing are large works on black painted paper, perforated by myriad burnt holes through which light escapes. Their delicate constellations of cascading dots and concentric rings resemble the traces of raindrops sliding down a window or rippling in a shallow puddle. Both works were commissioned for the MCA’s exhibition, Marking Time, in 2012 and were created partly during a residency in Scotland, and in Sydney. Inspired by Buddhist cosmology, Lee’s works are meditations on the transience of matter and life, which are bound together in an endless karmic cycle of death and rebirth. Burning the paper with a soldering iron, Lee has used fire to represent water – fusing elements within a single plane encompassing the terrestrial nature of rain and the celestial bodies of stars and meteor showers.
Fire is a central motif in Buddhism and Lee’s most recent ‘weather paintings’ (as she calls them) harness natural elements in their creation. Their canvas or thick paper surfaces are pierced and burned by the artist and sometimes exposed to rain, creating a pocked, star-like effect. In these works the individual is symbolised as one of multiple tiny connecting points of light within the wider universe, or ‘net of Indra’.
Over the last decade Lee’s previously representational imagery has increasingly given way to more fluid, abstract compositions with cosmic associations. Lee’s current work draws actively on Buddhist philosophy and particularly the writings of Zen masters such as Dōgen. She incorporates Zen Buddhism into her practice through meditation, sustained periods of contemplation from which her organic processes and responses to the work arise. The works are abstract and monochromatic, suggestive of a meditative state, a physical expression of Buddhist spiritual practices as well as symbolic of the mystery of burning stars and the universe, themes that have preoccupied the artist in recent years.
Black – the most fundamental colour, the ‘dark of absolute freedom’ (Ad Reinhardt) calling upon the unknowable, ungraspable and ultimately dark mystery, which resides in each of us.
Lindy Lee, 2012
Born 1954, Brisbane. Lives and works Sydney.
Lindy Lee is a painter whose practice centres on portraiture and the self. Her practice is informed by the eastern philosophies of Taoism and Buddhism and their teachings on the relationship between humanity and the universe. Symbolic gestures and processes that call on the element of chance are often used in her work. Lee began exhibiting in the 1980s, when she overlaid photocopied Renaissance portraits with transparent layers of paint (The Silence of Painters, 1989). In the mid-1990s she began incorporating portraits of family members into works that questioned ideas of cultural authenticity and acknowledged her own cultural background. At around the same time she started exploring abstraction, influenced by the monochromes of American abstract painter Ad Reinhardt. Buddhism has become increasingly significant in Lee’s practice, and her work of the 1990s sought to break down individual identity through decomposition of the image and the application of monochromatic wax splatters across its surface.
Lee has exhibited in Australia and Asia since the 1980s, including when her work was shown in the 1985 Perspecta at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney and the 1986 Biennale of Sydney. Her work was shown in Marking Time, MCA, Sydney (2012); Yin-Yang: China in Australia, S.H. Ervin Gallery, Sydney (2008); We are Australian Too: Women Against Racism, Casula Powerhouse, Sydney (2006); Element, BIAC, Beijing (2005); and Sight Seeing, Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing (2004). Lee’s work is held in numerous major state, regional, private and university collections in Australia.Learn more