Even though Chinese-Australian artist Lindy Lee has changed and refined her art practice over time there are certain themes that continually pervade her work. These include her Chinese heritage, questions of identity and being, spiritual practices, gesturing towards the cosmos, and the emotions of pain, grief and hope. Lee’s upcoming solo exhibition, The Seamless Tomb, exhibited at Sullivan + Strumpf, extends and refocuses these ongoing investigations.
While Lee originally grounded her practice in painting in the 1980s, The Seamless Tomb features works on paper, sculpture and installation, with a focus on the artist’s more recent bronze and stainless steel works.
It’s important to note, however, that The Seamless Tomb is centred around one single image; a family photograph. It shows her mother, father, eldest brother and aunt, all walking towards the camera. “The poignancy of this moment,” explains Lee, “is that this is my Dad’s last day in China.”
Lee’s father is about to board a boat heading to Australia. Meanwhile, because of White Australia policy restrictions, Lee’s pregnant mother will remain in China. She doesn’t know when she will see her husband again. “It’s a moment that is so fraught with anxiety and uncertainty and yet there is hope, because a migrant’s story is really one of hope, of trying to find something better, and that to me is part of what happens in this seamless tomb,” says the artist.
Lee’s show harkens back to a pivotal moment in her family history. Yet it also evokes the philosophies of Taoism and Zen Buddhism which have been central to her practice since the 1990s. The Seamless Tomb, in Zen practice, prompts one to imagine themselves as completely encased in a tomb, with no exit and no light. Within the tomb, says Lee, there is only one central question: “Where is your freedom?” This search has informed the artist’s work and Lee considers her upcoming show as “a response to 25 years of Zen practice and living in the seamless tomb.”
As part of Art Guide Australia’s podcast series, Tiarney spoke with artist Lindy Lee about her practice, Chinese heritage and questions of identity and being. Listen above, or via Art Guide Australia.