‘Tucoerah’ is the traditional Aboriginal name of the Georges River, which runs into Botany Bay, Sydney. Artists,Richard Lee and Amalia Gil-Merino extend thanks to the traditional custodians of the land, the for granting permission to use the name Tucoerah.
The artists’ survey of the river began at the headwaters near Appin. In collaboration, Lee and Gil-Merino collected samples of plants such as Lomandra and Acacia, coloured ochres and imagery of the animals they encountered and the people they met along its course to Botany Bay. All of which have figuratively, or materially, found their way into the paintings.
The residency provided the opportunity for the artists to Immerse themselves in the cultural landscape of the area ; the Australia Day revellers along the banks of the river, the Vietnamese Moon festival and the Sorry Day ceremony for Aboriginal people of the Stolen Generation.
As they discovered stories from residents, the repeated practice of painting informed the artists visualisation of this incongruous amalgam of cultures, animals and plants as the anamorphic entity of Tucoerah.
The analogy of landscape and the living body is transferred to a macrocosmic level, with rivers and tributaries as arteries and veins. The river flows through this exhibition as a lyrical metaphor, a conduit of the vital life force giving expression to human emotions such as love, contemplation or imagination.
In fluidly painted surfaces, human narrative is interwoven with what Richard Lee calls “meta-patterns” derived from the natural environment.
In ‘Voyage to Home’ a block of flats bursts with people in the throes of wild gesticulation. The fluidly painted surface is infused with a Eucalypt leaves and the illusions of humanity and architecture seem as transitory as a reflection on flowing water.
The painting was inspired by an exhibition of photographs in the Liverpool Museum about the assisted immigration of displaced Europeans after WW2. The waving crowd of refugees has been transposed from the deck of the Castel Verde, as it departs Italy for Australia, to the balcony of a block of Liverpool flats.
In ‘ Contemplation of Corpus’ a large figure emerges amid the introduced aquatic vegetation and bodies of carp, mullet and eels which, due to a an accidental spill of detergents, have floated to the surface. The fluorescent-garbed, custodians of the land, the EPA, consider the health of this ‘body of water”.
In ‘Birth’ a new life is presented within fragile reeds in the water and a pink skull hovering around the mother and child.
“The Sum of all Prayers” presents a river of prayers of all spiritual faiths converging on their one journey.
The course of the river and the journey of human life are natural processes interconnected in Lee’s painting.
“Thanks to Ni Wayan and Ibu Restu, I was introduced to the fabulous ‘Epic of Life’ mural painting of Kertha Gosa, a coming-of-age ceremony in a traditional Balinese village, Puri Lukisan Museum in Ubud and a cremation ritual in west Bali.
I was moved by the Balinese reverence for nature and the spiritual life, expressed through daily prayer and offerings made to the gods of all things large or small.
The sense of spirits all around and the energy of lush vegetation infused my consciousness as did the fantastic mythological visions of the Ramayana, Wayan Kulit (shaddow puppets)and the Kecak and Legong dances and temple carvings.
The local people generously shared their deep spiritual beliefs and practice. And my vision of the human condition shifted when seen through another cultural lens; as a natural balance of harmony - Dharma and chaos - Adharma
I found myself painting strange themes; demon lovers intertwined in a tree, a cremation with a life reincarnated, sprits in nature and an interpretation of Moksa (Hindu: liberation ) with Legong dancers as the models.
The experience refreshed my sense of freedom in painting. I am grateful for this joy and privilege.”
Richard Lee has a long-held fascination in the arts of Asia. Even during his Art School years, Richard independently deferred his studies for one year (1992) in order to go and live in Japan where he worked part time in various jobs, visited galleries and museums and painted.
Since his first solo exhibition, ‘The Shadows of Angels’ Goya Gallery, Melbourne in 2001, Richard Lee has painted and exhibited in Australia, China and South East Asia.
Background:“My first memories as a child are when we lived in Wyndham in the North of Western Australia. It was the seventies and very, very wild, very remote. The dominant sense was that of nature, on a grand scale - supreme...and that everything human was just a very small and temporary part of it. It was really a natural and comfortable feeling and I remember, as a child, I ran and played happily in the dust and grasses along with the creatures and always with the sun on my skin.
Later my family moved to live just on the outskirts of Tamworth in NSW. I studied for four years at an agricultural high school but later changed to a regular school so that I could study art in my senior years. I retained my love of nature and wild spaces and have always found my peace and balance by returning to the bush.”
In 2005 'The View From Cornucopia', an exhibition of Lee’s paintings at the Canberra Contemporary Art Space received a favourable review By Sacha Grishin in The Canberra Times and in the same year he was nominated as an emerging artist in the Mossman Regional Art Prize, Sydney.
In 2006 Richard Lee’s works were exhibited at Beaver Galleries in Canberra and the Melbourne Art Fair .
In 2006, interested in Chinese ink painting and Taoist philosophy, Richard Lee left Australia to complete a residency at Red Gate Gallery in Beijing. He completed a solo exhibition “Outside of Centre” with Imagine Gallery, Beijing in 2007 and his work was included in the Australian Art Scene pavilion at the Shanghai Art Fair.
In 2008 ‘Chaos Harmonie’ a solo exhibition curated by Dr Bruno Hoang was held at Galerie Celal in Paris. Lee began the paintings for that exhibition in Beijing and finished them in a studio in Berlin. After the exhibition, he became ill and stayed in Paris before travelling on to recover on the coast of Northern France and in South-Western England UK and then on to India and Nepal where he was deeply affected by the vibrancy and symbolism of colours and later developed a personal system of colour relationships.
He returned from this nine month “walk-about” to China where he stayed for another year and eventually returned to Australia in 2010 visiting China again in 2011 and 2013.
Since his 2008 solo exhibition ‘Chaos Harmonie’ Lee has had several subsequent exhibitions in Paris including a solo exhibition- ‘Paris Londres Beijing’ at Nine Kube Space, and was included in ‘Journees Du Patrimoine’ at La Fondation Eugene Napoleon.
2014 - ChiangMai, Thailand: ‘Passer by Paradise’ was a project-exhibition held at Nena Contemporary art space following a residency at the Monfai Lana Cultural Centre, where Lee researched the Lai-Thai decorative ornamentation of Buddhist Temples and hill-tribe textiles. He travelled by boat and motorcycle in Northern Laos in order to see more of the patterning and colours of traditional textiles of nomadic peoples.
Indonesia: In 2016 Lee completed a two month residency at Bali Purnati Centre for the Arts in Ubud, Bali producing works on paper which were influenced by the didactic Ramayana mythological paintings, dances and theatre.
In 2015, Richard was awarded GRID Residency at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre Sydney and created a collaborative residency project focusing on the culture and nature of George's River. Tucoerah exhibition was held at Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, Sydney in 2016.
Australian National University, School of Arts, Bachelor of Arts (Visual): 4 Year Degree course - Major in Painting 1993
University of Newcastle, Post-Graduate Diploma in Education (Art) 1995
Exhibitions and Projects
2017 Wollongong Gallery Homelessness Art Project, Lead Artist community engagement workshops and Mural project
2017 Globe lane Project Lead Artist community engagement workshops and Mural project Wollongong Council Centre Management Office.
2017 ‘Viva la Gong’ Live Painting event Wollongong Cultural Services
2017 Live Painting event Shopfront Youth Theatre Carlton Sydney
2017 Awarded Creative Space Studio Wollongong Cultural Services
2016 Bali Purnati Arts Centre Residency June- July 2016
2016 Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre Sydney, Exhibition,Tucoerah
2015 Awarded GRID Residency Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre Sydney, Completed Project -
2015 Finalist Kogarah Art Prize Sydney
2014 Exhibition: Nena Contemporary Art Space, Chiang Mai, Thailand: Exhibition Passer by Paradise
2014 Residency at Monfai Lana Cultural Centre Chiang Mai, Thailand
2013 Red Gate Gallery, Residency,Beijing
2011 La Fondation Eugene Napoleon, Paris, Exhibition:Journees Du Patrimoine
2010 9Kube space, Paris, Paris Londres Beijing, curated by Dr Bruno Hoang
2008 Galerie Celal, Rue St Honore Paris, Chaos Harmony Harmony Chaos, Solo Exhibition
2007 Imagine Gallery, Chaoyang, Beijing, Outside of Centre Solo Exhibition
2007 Shanghai International Art Fair, Australian Pavilion
2007 Songzhuang, June Alliance Performance Festival. Performance of ‘Some Kind of Nature’
2007 NY arts Space, Beijing, Installation Mode
2006 Imagine Gallery, Beijing, Residency
2006 Red Gate Gallery, Beijing ,Residency
2006 Beaver Galleries at Melbourne Art Fair
2006 Beaver Galleries, Canberra, Terrain
2005 Canberra Contemporary Art Space, ACT, The View From Cornucopia
2005 Nominated emerging artist at Mosman Regional Gallery, Westpac Redlands Art Prize
2005 Soda Gallery, Avalon Sydney, Small Paintings Prize Exhibition
2005 ANCA Gallery, Canberra, Tsunami Appeal Exhibition
2005 Bower House Gallery, Milton NSW, The Tree in a Changing Light
2004 Canberra Contemporary Art Space, Members Only
2002 Goya Gallery, Melbourne, Most Collectible Artists
2001 Goya Gallery, Melbourne, The Shadows of Angels
1999 Beaver Gallery, Canberra, Locality
1998 T.A.P Gallery, Sydney, Stuffed Paper
1997 Spiral Arm Gallery, Canberra, Kingston ACT, Living With Art
1996 Gorman House Arts Centre, Canberra, Contemporary Arts Festival
1995 Lake Russell Gallery Coffs Harbour NSW Postcards, Exhibition
Publications, Reviews and Articles
The Illawarra Mercury, ‘People and Places’, photo spread about mural event in Wollongong Mon 37th November 2017.
The Illawarra Mercury, Article Wollongong Art Gallery is running art programs at the Homeless Hub and Wesley Community Centre 12th July 2017
The Australian Newspaper, Weekend Magazine ‘The Great Call of China’ Sat, Sun 4th and 5th June 2011. Article.
Shanghai Daily Newspaper Arts Supplement, 14 November 2007, page D3, Article.
Metrozine magazine, Beijing, February 2007, pages 19-20. Article.
’Outside of Centre’ Exhibition Catalogue Imagine Gallery
‘Australian Art Scene’ Austrade publication Shanghai Art Fair 2007
Shanghai International Art Fair Exhibition Catalogue 2007
Canberra Times, June 2006,Review of group exhibition ‘Terrain’. Sonia Barron,
Canberra Times, October 12, 2005,Review of solo exhibition ‘The View From Cornucopia’. Sasha Grishin,
Inpress Magazine, Melbourne p78, issue 675, August 22, 2002, Review of solo
exhibition ‘The Shadows of Angels’
Canberra Times, Panorama March 20, 1999. Review of group exhibition ‘Locality’. Sonia Barron.
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