Lindy Lee

Lindy Lee has been living in the New South Wales Northern Rivers for almost eight years, making her upcoming exhibition at Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre something of a local show. While Lee’s recent work does indeed have an eye fixed on the local, it also plays to the cosmic.

Recently, I read an acquaintance’s reflection that the condition of embodiment is almost always embarrassment, shame, or discomfort of some kind. In Western, (post)Christian cultures we think of material life this way: the cycles of health underscored by sickness, the punctuation of life with death, the rot and riot of organic world around us. The Tweed itself has experienced more than its share of such strife in the past year, with flooding affecting the region. Lee looks reparatively across conditions like these to a horizon she figures through the Northern Rivers landscape itself: “The majesty of this region,” she says “proffers daily observation of the horizon – that mysterious liminal realm that exists between heaven and earth. A practice which has become paramount to my work, and also my life.” 

It is well known that Lee’s practice of the last decade or so has focussed particularly on principles of Taoism and Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism, considering what these might look like in artistic, as much as philosophical, practice. Reflecting on these traditions of thought, Lee has expanded on the more socio-historical concerns of her earlier work on her Chinese ancestry. “Although I started out examining issues of identity and belonging,” she says, “my practice has since expanded into the examination of one’s place within the Cosmos – that inextricable matrix of being to which we all belong.” She has been working with elemental materials – fire, water – to create sculptural forms from painterly mark-making processes. She allows fire to burn holes, and rain to soak through her paper, “calling forth this very profound connection of reciprocity and interdependence.” Rot and riot.

Lee’s work to be displayed in the Temporary exhibitions space at the Gallery includes a series of scrolls, sculptures, “rain works,” and a large installation of Moonlight Deities, 2019–2020, which featured prominently at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia’s 2020 retrospective, Moon in a Dew Drop. Disc-like forms, both of her various materials and of negative space, will flicker across the Gallery, creating a zone of abiding “betweenness” where we navigate through destruction and creation, presence and absence, this world and another. 

Reflecting on Ouroboros, her public sculpture due for completion at the National Gallery of Australia in 2024, Lee recounted one of her favourite features of the cosmos: “Even when a star died a hundred million years ago, we still receive that light.” Critics and curators seem often to lean on dichotomies when describing Lee’s work, but this line is a useful reminder that the balance of life’s and art’s equations, for Lee, does tend to end up with light. At this major exhibition, held as it is in a place known to and loved by the artist, it will be a pleasure to bathe in Lee’s earthly, ethereal glow.   

This article was originally published in Artist Profile, Issue 61, 2022.
Images courtesy the artist and Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre, New South Wales.

Flowing Everywhere and Always
2 December 2022 – 26 February 2023
Tweed Regional Gallery & Margaret Olley Art Centre, New South Wales

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