14 October – 31 October 1987

Untitled I (After Francisco de Herrera), 1986, photocopy, acrylic on stonehenge paper, 4 parts, overall size: 29 x 121 cm

The poignant darkness of these works is too subtle a substance to embody the demonstrative lamentations of that effusive nihilism too easily wrought in the elegaic protocols of postmodernism. Nor can the imagery darkening in their silken shade be enlisted into the illustrative repertoire of that theoretical prosecution of art history which has defamed art's originality: though derived from masterpieces this imagery has nothing of the programmatic economy of appropriation (nor, one might add, nothing of the vandalism of image-scavenging, a carnivalesque mode of prosecution).

Both mourning and interrogation have been the embattled imperatives of this decade, yet neither mourning nor interrogation motivate these pictures. Lindy Lee's distinction is discerned in an expression of melancholic affirmation; an expression more susceptible to consolation than regret, but an affirmation forsaken by the very history to which it is morally committed in an echo, the fading of a moment into uneventful posterity.

"From today painting is dead", Paul Delaroche is reputed to have declared upon seeing a daguerreotype; and pictured in Lindy Lee's work is something of this prospect though, not its eventful oracular pretension to history-making finality (the modernity of mechanical reproduction pronouncing the beginning of the end). Rather, the abandonment, loitering in relinquished futurity, of a historic mission, leaving the solitary moment of uncanny encounter with death.

The repeated scanning that produces the photocopies does not lay down a shroud of "technical" materiality over an image (the mediation of imagery by the mode of mechanical reproduction: this would be a banal demonstration of the embodiment of vision), instead, the repetition of the exposure indexed by the build-up of surface is dispossessed of the materiality of its process and is subtilized as a figure arising from the medium. Moreover, the darkness that records the measured repetition of the scanning light in the photocopies is not strictly speaking a "patina" (figurative gloss on the substantiality fo the medium) but is matte insubstantial figure momentarily visible in the disaccumulation of the image.

Likewise the precarious optical existence of the image in the paintings is hardly an illustration of an interrogative vision: the vaporous disincarnation of El Greco's light is here figured in the darkening echo of an idealization, an echo reverberating in the death delivered by the daguerreotype. Lindy Lee's use of the epidiascope to project her drawings of the El Greco reproduction onto the canvas is comparable to both the technical principle of the photocopy and to that of the daguerreotype in its rarefaction of the opacity of the object as a synoptic positive icon. But this is so of the paintings only because of their virtual image as paintings: for the surface that is lit by the image is not the "ground" (an acrylic vermilion underpainting) upon which an image will be composed, but rather the "glaze" (the dried skin of a predominantly prussian blue wax-paste: significantly, not the cooled deposit of encaustic facture), in which by a kind of intaglio the image clarifies.

Thus for the painting too the image is only virtually substantiated in the medium; and the technical process re-appears as an insubstantial figure, palely hovering as the lustre of an affirmative art returning iconicity with the after-life of painting.

— Edward Colless, October 1987.

View exhibition