Recent paintings

© Courtesy of Rhys Lee and cadet capela
© Credits photo: Thomas Marroni

Rhys Lee

November 28 — December 14, 2019

Rue Saint Claude, Paris, FR

The timeless sense of familiarity and the uncompromising attitude of contemporariness is regularly the first impression one gets when looking at the vibrant oils and pastels by Rhys Lee. Painted in a small country town in Victoria, Australia, they lend themselves to a European context and atmosphere while reflecting the artist’s thoughts of the world outside of the studio, his little hometown, and remote country. 

Quite formal and classic in terms of subject matter, the paintings included in Lee’s European debut feature traditional formats with the seated female subject, a figure smoking in a trench coat, or classic portraits, all done through the prism of raw abstract figuration. Although clearly influenced by traditional motifs and subjects and the works by the local greats such as Soutine, Ensor, Rousseau, Bourgeois, Cezanne, or Matisse, some of the pieces in the show subtly reveal his graffiti background through letter-like abstracted forms that evoke still life format.      

In his practice, Lee is putting an obvious focus on textures and layers, allowing materials and tools to leave marks of the process. Regularly working with used, neglected, or shaggy brushes, he is leaving the traditional painterly technique aside while purposely pushing the creative process too far. Through such pressure, he almost destroys the original image, but then brings it back and resuscitate it, often turning it into a new painting that it might not have been. During this course of action, the artist is making spontaneous decisions about color and texture, which makes both his process and the end result exciting and surprising. The extraordinarily hues and gradients, a variety of line work utilized, as well as unexpected textures, are all accomplished by allowing the paint to dictate the route and the final outcome.

With the creative methods themselves being vital elements of the work, the paintings are carrying their scars and bruises, proudly revealing the different stages they’ve developed through. Although only learning to have patience and be able to re-approach the work with fresh eyes, the frustration and impatience are often the keys to breakthrough moments in his practice. Working from a photo, a painting, a sculpture, or a film still, the artist manipulates multiple drawings in different stages until they become an abstraction of their own, and it’s only in the recent body of work that he’s been consciously working towards making images that are reasonably true to the initial idea or reference

Sasha Bogojev