LINDY LEEDewdrop (Fathomless), 2013, splash bronze, 100 cm diameter. Courtesy the artist and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong. 

Universal Record of the Flame

Lindy Lee

10 Chancery Lane Gallery
Hong Kong

LINDY LEEFlame from the Dragon’s Pearl (Open as the Sky), 2013, bronze sculpture, 38 × 34 × 35 cm. Courtesy the artist and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong. 

LINDY LEETranslucent, 2013, plasma-cut stainless-steel sheet, 210 × 100 cm. Courtesy the artist and 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong. 

Lindy Lee has been a student of Zen Buddhism for over 20 years. Her studies have run in tandem with her career as an artist, resulting in some of the formidable works that have been on view at 10 Chancery Lane Gallery in Hong Kong over the last month. Referencing Zen parables, Lee seeks to depict and explore her “divided self,” particularly in reference to her Chinese-Australian heritage.

The movements in her work are inspired by meditation and moments of calm—like those that occur between the concentric rings of ripples in water. To create one group of works, the artist draws out liquid bronze from the cauldron of a Sydney foundry and then flings it to create a smattering of haphazard shapes. These are later pieced together to create large-scale wall installations such as A Life of Forms (2013), which features dollops of metal arranged within an area of 130 centimeters square, and Dewdrop (Fathomless) (2013), a circular wall-mounted collection of splashed bronze that, in its abstract shapes, looks like an accidental map of the world. By imbuing metal with the qualities of water, she explores the immateriality of existence.

Previously engaged with photography and paint, these bronze works, and another group of sheet-metal works, both stem from material and conceptual processes Lee has been exploring since 2009. Disenchanted with the entrenched idiosyncrasies found in ink painting, she was drawn instead to the techniques used by Ch’an (Zen) Buddhist monks. After meditation, the monks splash the contents of a tumbler of ink onto a page—the mark that results is considered to be indicative of the universe’s energy, rather than the action of the monk himself. According to Lee, it encapsulates “the totality of the universe—the sum of all conditions, which underlie the creation of ‘this’ moment.”

Two figurative pieces in the show included a depiction of Guanyin, the feminine face of Buddhism, printed onto tall sheets of steel, their hard, gray, metallic surface recalling the two-dimensionality of ink painting, but with a durability worlds away from the ephemeral qualities of the literati tradition.

Most imposing among the wall pieces are those, including Translucent (2013), that have the appearance of strange scientific specimens, their surfaces dotted with highly various bubble shapes that have been burnt through the steel. A key element to contemplate when looking at these porous yet sturdy works is the diverse shadow patterns cast behind them. Lee has said that this projection echoes the Daoist principle of the “interconnection between the material and immaterial.”

Accepting what is unpredictable as predetermined by the universe—such as the shape flung molten bronze might take—is an approach that Lee feels at one with. This exhibition is named after Universal Record of the Flame, a Song Dynasty document that lists the enlightened women of that period, and Lee has taken the opportunity to look at her own inevitable place within the cosmos in relation to the legacy of feminine creative energy in China.

Lee also draws attention to dualities. Her choice of material allows her to control the elements yet, to a certain degree, leave things up to forces beyond her control. Through her non-actions spontaneous visions emerge.

Lindy Lee’s work is on view at 10 Chancery Lane Gallery in Hong Kong through November 16, 2013.