The Dark Art of Tim Hon Hung Lee

July 01, 2014

Tim Lee’s large-scale ink drawings and paintings on rice paper are, at a first glance, tightly bound with the visual aesthetics of Chinese painting, while simultaneously referencing elements of traditional European art. The conflation of these visual cultures is unsurprising: Lee is a British artist of Chinese descent. But the work does not just amount to a reverential homage to these past cultures.

The construction of this work is a slow meditation on composition, where the artist enacts an exploration of the pictorial space (and a very physical one: at certain points moving back from the work, assessing it under altered light conditions, even making “passes” of the hand over the paper, feeling, in a literal sense, his way through the construction of the image). The works do not grow from background to foreground as in traditional painting, and are not planned as an overall image, but are in a sense unveiled through a nomadic meandering across the paper, where entire sections are completed before stepping back and deciding which direction to take next. This lack of a dominating, pre-established composition can explain why these paintings often operate best when the eye is allowed to roam slowly across the surface. —An excerpt from an essay by Steve Reed from Tim's site