Images and Words:
I have admired art critics who shared a deep understanding of the painter’s craft, and felt genuine sorrow when Robert Hughes, John Berger, John Updike and lately, Peter Schedjedahl, died. Thus inspired, I wrote about shows that particularly moved me, about artists I respect and about artworks of special characteristics and quality. A few of these texts remain and along with images, I hope they succeed in giving you a taste of my experience of looking and thinking.
Exhibition of works by Susan Lee
La calligraphie de l'inaperçu / Calligraphy of the Overlooked
Musée d’art contemporain des Laurentides
3 May – 14 June, 2009
The artist and the biologist describe the worlds they witness with interwoven observations and rigorous note-taking. Then the artist veers away to transform their knowledge into subjective interpretations and expressive understanding. As witness and craftswoman, the artist Susan Lee examines a waterway close to her home and her heart. She looks upon the aquatic surface visibly marked with floating impedimenta, and imagines its impact upon the invertebrate inhabitants living amongst these spoils of our human excess.
Her subjects squirm and wriggle on the surfaces of her handmade paper or wooden panels, while their calligraphic forms spell out their dilemma. Too small to be of importance to most of us, but vital to our very existence and that of the aquatic world from which we emerged. The floating quality of her imagery is held in place by grid patterns – both repetitive and varied, which invite us to look into the dual locations of paint surface and illusionary depth.
We are led into this hidden world, both visually and metaphorically by the flotsam and jetsam of human garbage - by the wise old sturgeon, and the creepy stuff we know exists but cannot name. To empathize with an invertebrate is not obvious, and I am not sure the listing of their Latin names makes the relationship any closer, but here in the medium of art, we are compelled to examine and feel the existence of our distant relatives trying so hard to survive in their medium of water.
The pieced-togetherness of ‘Constituents of a chaos’, fuses in front of my eyes as I examine it obliquely. I feel a need to look at it from the side, perhaps responding to the ‘sometimes you see it, sometimes you don’t’ quality of both nature and painting. As I pass in front of the work, the insignia become dominant, and my coherent brain kicks in.
My first impression upon viewing the art of Susan Lee is her maturity as an artist. Her integration of experienced craftsmanship and clarity of vision separates her art from many of her contemporaries who are locked into the showstoppers of ‘relevance’ and ‘artistry’, and ultimately, superficiality. Lee’s work reminds us that sometimes we must avert our gaze from the great and obvious, and notice the subtle and minute realities around us. Once again, it is an artist who illustrates the invisible.
Joanna Nash, Arundel, Qc. 2009