Victorian based Rhys Lee holds a Bachelor of Visual Arts, Graphic Design from the Queensland College of Art (1997). He has held solo exhibitions in Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Sydney and internationally in New York. Lee’s work has been included in group exhibitions at the Ian Potter Museum, Melbourne (2015), the Archibald Prize at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (2012), Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery (2001), The University of Queensland National Artist’s Self Portrait Prize (2009) and the Doug Moran Prize at the State Library of New South Wales (2009). A monograph on the artist was published in 2009. Lee’s work is held in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia and Artbank.
25 JULY TO 12 AUGUST
Queensland College of Art graduate Rhys Lee’s latest exhibition at Nicholas Thompson Gallery follows on from a sprawling exhibition he staged there in 2017, entitled 10 Paintings and 100 Drawings. This 2018 iteration is considerably smaller in scale. Whistle Work is made up of only nine medium to large paintings, but it takes off from where the artist left off. Lee is a prolific painter; his works might loosely be described as portraiture but they’re not really like any portraiture you have seen before. They nearly always include a face or the suggestion of a face; according to Thompson, “Lee considers this as almost a type of self-portraiture.” Most recently he has been painting images of psychotic poodles, all bulging eyes and maniacal, bared teeth. They offer a kind of perverted beauty: pampered animals rendered grotesque and mad. Weird too, they hold your gaze.
For Whistle Work he has painted cats too – who exude all the aloofness of an art connoisseur – menacing baboons and more poodles – or are they clowns? The new works continue Lee’s investigation into colour relationships, in his typical prolific mode of art making. He lets the imagery well up from his subconscious; the subjects that people his work are at times a nightmarish mix of cartoon characters, caricature and spooky horror tropes. It’s a show that pulses with a mania, a kind of gestural abstraction meets George Condo. His work owes a debt to Sidney Nolan and Albert Tucker, yes, but it is infused with a contemporary energy that is truly palpable. The palette too is a riot of colour. The art shouldn’t work but it does. Whistle Work opens at Nicholas Thompson Gallery, Melbourne on July 25 and shows until August 12, 2018.
EXHIBITION PREVIEW IN VAULT MAGAZINE
10 PAINTINGS & 100 DRAWINGS
14 OCTOBER TO 5 NOVEMBER 2017
“Rhys Lee’s painted protagonists slide between shapes and species like hallucinatory projections of subliminal currents. Bestial snouts and anthropoidean faces flicker with the familiar and strange, knocking humanity off its evolutionary throne into a shadowy subterranean world where renegade cowboys and carnivalesque outcasts lurk with predatory stealth…”
Extract from Elli Walsh exhibition article in current issue of Art Almanac – Read full version here.
“‘I always want to show everything that I make… get it out there! Otherwise it just sits in a studio pile or gallery stockroom,’ tells artist Rhys Lee. In his current, epic exhibition at Nicholas Thomson Gallery, he’s certainly been able to showcase a great deal of his most recent output – a rich and brilliantly perturbing exploration of the human condition.”
Extract from Elle Murrell exhibition profile on The Design Files – Read full version here
30 JULY TO 21 AUGUST 2016
Rhys Lee: Hopeful Monsters
The senior artist Gareth Sansom recently made a comment about a Rhys Lee work on Instagram, suggesting that the painting shouldn’t work, “but it does.” Over a recent lunch he convinced Lee that the comment was meant as an utter compliment, however Sansom’s comment certainly was astute: There is always something “wrong” with Rhys Lee’s work, something wonderfully off-kilter that is at first utterly unnerving but, once it settles, becomes entirely beguiling.
“I’ve been going through a colour period in the last few years,” he said at that same lunch. “But now I’m turning towards a dark period.” As a youthful artist, Lee’s work had aggression and darkness at its very heart. But in 2009 he moved to the bush and has since become a proud father of two, a fact that is clearly filtering into the new works with feral energy.
Lee’s next outing will be a fearsome collection of sculpted bronzes with accompanying paintings. The resulting army, or menagerie, of sculptures are amongst the oddest works in Lee’s oeuvre to date. Manically grinning heads sit alongside malformed hands and strange, bulbous portraits. The Hand of the Artist here is battered, malformed, truncated and bloated. On the one hand, Lee’s appendages are the victims of some form of hideous leprosy, on the other they resemble the withered balloons employed in the arsenals of deranged clowns. At times they resemble sea anemones, those beautiful flower-like entities that are in fact predatory oceanic animals.
Humans love monsters and, according to at least one theory of biology, that may be because we ourselves are possibly monstrous – quite literally. Humans may be the result of what German-American biologist Richard Goldschmidt termed a “Hopeful monster.” His concept, conceived in the 1940s, suggests that, alongside Darwin’s theory of evolution, major evolutionary shifts have, on occasion, exploded in massive leaps between species. Joyous mutants or, to quote David Bowie, “Scary Monsters,” and “Super Creeps.”
For Lee, however, these strange busts act more as portraits of the human condition. He muses that they may in fact be self-portraits, reflecting the wild leaps from somber anxiety to joyous transcendence that the artist himself has felt during the tumultuous emotional upheavals of beginning a family and creating art.
There is another element in these new works, perhaps spawned from his own childhood; that of the phantasmagorical. At times we are reminded of the works of Robert Anning Bell (1863-1933) who penned the grotesqueries illustrating Grimm’s Household Tales, the drawings by the author of Gormenghast, Mervyn Peake (1911-1968) and the macabre etchings of Hieronymus Bosch (1450-1516).
Such imagery delights and terrifies children and adults alike, an uncanny frisson that Rhys Lee is now setting free in the gallery environ. Having emerged from the canvases they were conceived on, these creatures are now set in burnished bronze, standing proudly like some kind of family portrait of an other-dimensional Game of Thrones. Some of them grin madly, others portray a more somber mood, each exudes personality. For all their strangeness, there is something intimate about these works, perhaps reminding us of youthful dreams (or nightmares). There can seem to be little doubt that fatherhood has influenced this mid-career artist in the best of ways.
– Ashley Crawford
WORKS ON LINEN
WORKS ON PAPER
THE MASK OF THE FEMALE CRANE FLY AT SYDNEY CONTEMPORARY
10 TO 13 SEPTEMBER 2015
New at the fair this year are Melbourne’s Nicholas Thompson Gallery, which opened in March and is taking work by painter Rhys Lee. Extract from Jane O’Sullivan ‘A lot riding on the success of Sydney Contemporary 2015’ in The Australian Financial Review 8 September 2015
RHYS LEE FEATURE IN ISSUE 45/2018 OF ‘ARTIST PROFILE’, STORY BY TAI MITSUJIBy Nicholas Thompson
RHYS LEE AND HEIDI YARDLEY PRESENT SURVEY EXHIBITIONS IN CONJUNCTION WITH 3:33 ART PROJECTS FOR THE CLAYTON UTZ ART PARTNERSHIP, MELBOURNE FROM NOVEMBER 2018 TO MAY 2019By Nicholas Thompson
RHYS LEE EXHIBITION ‘WHISTLE WORLD’ PREVIEWED IN VAULT ART MAGAZINEBy Nicholas Thompson
Queensland College of Art graduate Rhys Lee’s latest exhibition at Nicholas Thompson Gallery follows on from a sprawling exhibition he staged there in 2017, entitled 10 Paintings and 100 Drawings. This 2018 iteration is considerably smaller in scale. Whistle Work is made up of only nine medium to large paintings, but it takes off from where the artist…
RHYS LEE ‘WHISTLE WORLD’ OFFICIAL MELBOURNE ART WEEK EVENTBy Nicholas Thompson
Rhys Lee: Whistle World Friday, 3 August, 2018 11:00 am – 5:00 pm Nicholas Thompson Gallery, 155 Langridge Street, Collingwood Whistle World is an exhibition of nine new paintings by Victorian-based artist, Rhys Lee. With a Bachelor of Visual Arts, Graphic Design from the Queensland College of Art (1997), Lee has held solo exhibitions…
RHYS LEE ARTICLE BY ALISON KUBLER IN CURRENT ISSUE OF ART COLLECTORBy Nicholas Thompson
RHYS LEE’S EXHIBITION PROFILED ON ‘THE DESIGN FILES’By Nicholas Thompson
Rhys Lee Shares ‘10 Paintings and 100 Drawings’ ART ‘I always want to show everything that I make… get it out there! Otherwise it just sits in a studio pile or gallery stockroom,’ tells artist Rhys Lee. In his current, epic exhibition at Nicholas Thomson Gallery, he’s certainly been able to showcase a great deal of his…