Lindy Lee, a first generation Chinese Australian, is one of the most established artists of her generation. Her paintings have been a gradual yet steady process of illumination, both for the viewer and for the artist herself. Cycles Through A Chinese Landscape is an exhibition of paintings which reflect Lee's interest in exploring notions of selfhood as a constantly changing aggregation of experiences which include both Eastern and Western influences. Each colour has, for Lee, a significance that is highly personal, informed particularly by her studies in Zen Buddhism. This is what she has said about the colours she uses:
Black: underlying mystery: invisible, unseeing, unseen, and silent, utmost causation, causeless, ceaseless, indeterminate. Red: blood-red vitality, passion, fire, life, fortuity, actuality, carnal, corporeal, substance. Blue: deep, vast and introspective, the life of the spirit, translucent and silent, my utopia. Purple: the direct mix of blue and red; of spirit and matter, dark, murky and rich, uncertain, neither choice not chance, grit, endurance, reluctance, hesitation, perseverence. Orange: the black stone at the heart of the universe, pure transmission, gold, the luminosity in each and every thing when given proper attention. Green: jade-like colour of life, oceanic colour.
The ongoing concerns in Lee's work are the relationship between copies and originals in connection to notions of authenticity, selfhood and Zen Buddhism. Earlier work, using photocopies of Old Master reproductions, was a complex mix, exploring concepts of 'belonging' to a Western art tradition; loss and redemption and painting as a practice of silence and embodiment. These concerns have developed through Lee's experience of diaspora. Theories of diaspora attempt to explain differences between an original culture and the manifestation of that culture elsewhere. In Lee's current work, this tension manifests itself between constructed oppositions ranging from a tussle between abstraction and figuration, lightness and darkness embodied in colours, ideas of presence and absence, static and dynamic and, most importantly, the original versus the reproduction.
The development of a more expressive and active painting style in Lee's new work relates to her practice of Zen. Bold brushstrokes, drips and splashes in black paint and wax reflect a state of flux and movement. At times, this style resembles a calligraphic sensibility, although Lee's technique differs in a number of significant ways. Calligraphy is a heavily codified art form, with recognisable levels of progression towards the attainment of technical perfection. In contrast, Lee's brush marks are more spontaneous, like random studies in movement.
Lindy Lee has shown extensively both in Australia and overseas, including the 1985 Australian Perspecta, the 1986 Sydney Biennale, Prospect '93 (Germany), Transcultural Painting (toured throughout Asia) and Edge to Edge: Contemporary Australian Art to Japan. Her work is held in most of Australia's major institutions, including the Australian National Gallery, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Art Gallery of Western Australia, the Art Gallery of South Australia as well as numerous corporate collections.
Her work is most recently documented in an Art & Australia/Craftsman House monograph, Lindy Lee, by Benjamin Genocchio and Melissa Chiu, 2001.