Rhys Lee | Everglades Cavalier
22.04.09 to 16.05.09
Rhys’ solo exhibition ‘Everglades Cavalier’ at Karen Woodbury Gallery showcases eleven paintings, three sculptures and one work on paper within an installation environment. Associations of oceanic debris, swampy grasslands, investigations into the male psyche and rustic, gothic memories resound within this exhibition.
The many mysterious faces on the canvases appear painted in an effort to encourage an aura of times and people gone by. Many of the eyes are closed as if dead, or in contrast, pointed and potent. In each case these faces beckon not to be forgotten. The seemingly dark palette is deceiving, as on closer inspection, hidden layers and flecks of vibrant reds, pinks, greens and blues emerge from the engulfing muted black and ultramarine tones. Lee’s figures pay homage to portraiture in a traditional sense with the use of oils and smaller intimate scale.
Lee deals with a range of media outside of painting. The cedar hut positioned in the gallery space can be seen to initially house and accompany the collection of recent works. This construction carries with it associations of past inhabitation and use. Its appropriation for this scene allows for the imagination of the viewer. What is inside? How does it’s purpose connect with the many stories depicted? Naval flags tie in with the titles of the works such as: Shipwreck, On a boat and High Seas to enliven a marine narrative thread.
The blistered silver patina and bronze sculptures allude to a dark gothic sentiment that extends beyond the morphing forms. The shapes have been smashed, manipulated and stuck back together again resulting in frozen miniature icons that represent a contemporary zest for defiance. These trophy-like pieces are decorated by old, worn and found vintage materials that engage with the everyday.
All works fit together to document the emotional state of the artist conjugated through the exploration of a haunting aftermath, part fictional, researched and experienced. The atmosphere is decidedly haunting and brooding. The exhibition is not prescriptive and allows the viewer to interact with the characters, stories and artefacts individually.
Rachael Watts, April 2009