From within darkness, colour coalesces as if from nothingness. Blackness is the absolute concentration of all colour. In The Secret of the Golden Flower, Lindy Lee presents portraits of family members and abstract compositions, with monochrome panels emanating from and punctuating the predominant darkness.
Exhibition Dates: 20 November – 20 December 2003
From within darkness, colour coalesces as if from nothingness. Blackness is the absolute concentration of all colour. In The Secret of the Golden Flower, Lindy Lee presents portraits of family members and abstract compositions, with monochrome panels emanating from and punctuating the predominant darkness. Wooden panels create the grid, and along with the use of personally significant colours, these have become Lee's signature. The turbulence of wax, which is flung, splattered or poured over the composite support, surprises the underlying formal structure. The whole work is 'actualised' in its singularity and multiplicity. Once formed, it cannot be repeated. Dogen Kigen, a Japanese Zen monk, wrote a Genjo koan (meditation puzzle) in the 13th century, which Lee has cited as directing her recent work: "To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualised by the myriad of things."
Growing up in Brisbane, as a first generation Chinese Australian, Lee began investigating issues of selfhood and identity through the concepts of the copy and the original as a way of challenging Western cultural hegemony. She later engaged with these issues through her experience of diaspora.
In this exhibition, as in recent years, Lee's family members appear among the works. Photographic portraits can document only moments of an entire life and these individuals, close to the artist, are offered here as fragments multiplied. The reduction of the image is what we encounter in the two-dimensional inkjet print reproduction. We can never know Lee's subjects in their entirety. These people, aunt, brothers, mother and grandmother, are revealed in Lee's works at different ages, as if in flux, in transition somewhere between nascency and effacement. They look out to the viewer steadily. Each subject is both serene and receptive to the gaze, as if acknowledging that their representations here have been emptied of all that they are, just illusions now of pigment and reflected light.
Releasing hot wax into the air is a way of giving over intentionality to the constituent elements of that particular instant. Factors such as temperature and velocity become agents in recording an event which can never be repeated. Working from a meditative position, the artist as 'authentic self' or 'no-self' enables the work to be actualised in its own particularity, as an expression of the artist and of itself.
The formal composition of Lee's work demonstrates the Buddhist story of the Net of Indra. In this story, the universe is conceived as a net, where every intersection is marked with a jewel, the facets of which perfectly reflect every other jewel in the net. Integral to Lee's work are the fissures between each panel, and the 'suture' operating in the work overall. There is a fragility here, and also strength, vitality and space for reflection.
The affective power of colour has great associative significance for Lee. She believes that colours can stand as images in themselves. In The Secret of the Golden Flower, Lee has returned to a predominance of black. The casts of black work as powerfully as do bright colours, glowing, vibrating from darkest aubergine and sapphire and in the warmth of concentrated sepia. The panels of intense red, orange and blue, are made to pulsate all the more in relation to these hues of darkness.
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). She is a founding member of Gallery 4A in Sydney's Chinatown and her work is held in most of Australia's major public collections, including the National Gallery of Australia, 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.