This Earthen Tent
There is a day when the road neither comes nor goes, and the way is not a way but a place.
Wendell Berry, The Sabbath Poems, VII, 1997
This Earthen Tent is a new body of paintings by Australian artist Adam Lee. In these new paintings Lee extends upon his previous series’ of work which explored ideas of human pilgrimage and the experience of lamentation as a metaphor for the act of painting. This new series considers different narrative threads to contemplate how the temporality of human experience might interact with ideas of transcendence or what the artist refers to as a ‘divine reality’. Themes of family, as well as ideas of shelter or protection tend to typify the paintings, evoking a sense of ethereality or nostalgia, but ultimately reflecting the artist's fascination with our longing for home.
As viewers, we quickly become privy to Lee’s apparent curiosity in archaic figures and a tendency toward imagery that is at once folkloric and fantastical. From the idyllic to the pastoral, Lee’s imagery includes shrine and tabernacles, funerary scenes or groups engaged in pilgrimage, often circulating around thehermit as a metaphoric figure or unwitting protagonist. Lee’s imagery seems almost canonical or procedural, certainly recognizable, but never formulaic. The works are often accompanied by a foreboding sense of regeneration, which has less to do with any sort of apocalyptic revelation, but rather what the artist views as a renewal, or an elevation of the everyday and the ordinary toward the suggestion of an emergence of a new world. In Lee’s paintings, it seems time converges; the past, future and present become one, and narratives become complex and indeterminable.
Recently, the artist has begun to describe his paintings as altar-like. Lee has a fascination with historic religious artworks, particularly with respect to their past function to connect the human gaze with a divine experience. Similarly, Lee’s paintings are intended as objects to draw us to contemplate abstract ideas and realms, as if through a veil. For Lee, each painting presents itself as a vessel to link two worlds: one of everyday human experience and the other glimpsed opaquely, as if occulted by the passing of time and the limitations of human understanding, while simultaneously weighted within the world of the here and the now.
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