One of the artist’s favourite quotes comes from Hui-neng the 6th Ancestor /Patriarch of Zen/Ch’an:
The boundless emptiness of the sky embraces the ten thousand things of every shape and form—the sun, the moon and stars, mountains and rivers, bushes and trees, bad people and good, good teachings and bad, heavens and hells. All these are included in emptiness.
The emptiness of your original nature is just like this. It too embraces everything. To this aspect the word ‘great’ applies. All and everything is included in your original nature.
The ‘dark’ to which Lee refers in her exhibition title, is a quality that has had a strong presence throughout the artist’s thirty year career. From the early appropriation works that explored the artist’s position of diaspora—being in between cultures—the current exhibition is more about her practice of Zen Buddhism, and the philosophical questions posed by the concept of ‘compassion.’ The ‘dark’ -- in relation to Zen – becomes a poetic kind of concept that includes the notion of liberation from illusions, as in “The Dark of not knowing”…. “The Dark of Absolute Freedom.”
Lindy Lee’s exhibition at Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery features images of the Chinese Buddhist Bodhisattva of Compassion, Kuanyin. It is she that hears all the suffering in the world. She is often depicted with many arms and hands and in each hand is a tool to help alleviate suffering. The hands also indicate that each action in the world has an effect, and as Lee explains, “each action is potentially also the mind of compassion, mind of Kuanyin.”
Kuanyin is an important figure for Chinese families, and had a strong presence in the artist’s own family. Three of the four Kuanyin images used in this exhibition are personal. The figurines are generally small-scale – able to be kept at home, moved around and even taken travelling. The miniature faces have been photographed by the artist’s husband, Robert Scott-Mitchell. The significance of details are heightened in Lee’s treatment, and incorporates an awareness that each Kuanyin has been made by an individual, that has considered the impact of their spiritual understanding and subsequent artistic decisions. Mudras, or symbolic body postures and hand gestures, have parallels in the history of European arts, where saints and religious characters are depicted with ‘trademarks’ or particular set differentiating features. In this exhibition, Lee also appropriates details of hands from printed reproductions of works by Italian Renaissance painter Raphael. Becoming intimate with depictions that have a spiritual function involves thinking about their significance for the viewer, their role as vessels for a deity’s essence and their function as objects that contain power. And part of that power, or emptiness, as it might be called, is that our perceptions of the world teach us a lot about ourselves.
Lindy Lee has been represented by Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery since 1986. She has shown extensively both in Australia and internationally in important museum exhibitions, including the 1985 Australian Perspecta, the 1986 Sydney Biennale, Prospect ‘93 (Germany), Edge to Edge: Contemporary Australian Painting to Japan (1988), Transcultural Painting (toured throughout Asia 1994) and, Photography is Dead, Long Live Photography, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (1996). An important solo exhibition Lindy Lee: Birth & Death was presented at Artspace, Sydney in 2003. She will hold her first solo show with Valentine Willie Fine Art, , later in 2006. Lee is a founding member of Gallery 4A in Sydney’s Chinatown and her work is held in most of ’s major public collections, including the National Gallery of , the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Art Gallery of Western Australia, the Art Gallery of South Australia as well as numerous corporate and private collections.
Exhibition opening: Thursday, 6 April 2006, 6-8pm
Exhibition dates: 6 April – 30 April 2006
Gallery hours: Tuesday–Friday 10am–6pm, Saturday 11am–6pm