Lindy Lee

Philosophy of the Parvenu, 1990
14 panels, photocopy and acrylic on Stonehenge paper mounted on board
82.0 x 180.0 cm
signed, dated and numbered with panel number (on reverse)


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13 Verity Street, Melbourne
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 1990

Lindy Lee - Black + Black + Black, 13 Verity Street, Michael Wardell Gallery, Melbourne 1 -24 November 1990

M Chiu, B Genocchio, 'Lindy Lee', Art and Australia, 2001, illus.p. 30

Philosophy of the Parvenu features the distinctive duotone treatment for which Lee is best known. Her restrained use of black against a field of Prussian blue yields an intensely deep image. Here a photocopy of a face is repeated fourteen times in the work. The image begins as a recognizable face taken from J.A.D Ingres, La Grande Odalisque (1814).

Through a process of photocopying the reproduced image by Ingres, and by continually cycling that image through a photocopier, Lee creates a succession of images that increasingly lose detail with each copy, becoming darker and less like the original.

  • Philosophy of the Parvenu

Courtesy of the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

View artist profile

Beginning her career as a conceptual artist in the 1980s, Lindy Lee is a painter and sculptor whose work explores the concept of the self, the materiality of artworks and a broad range of cultural, ancestral and philosophical influences. Her earlier work used copies of European master paintings; images often studied in art schools through reproductions presented on slides or within the pages of a textbook rather than by encountering the original. Initially she developed these images on canvas, projecting the images onto a wax and oil surface, scraping back the minimal painting to reveal the Master image. Lee then reworked fragments of such imagery by repeatedly photocopying segments, such as a female face, from the larger image. With these early images, Lee challenged the accepted value of the great master paintings and propositioned the viewer to consider notions of the copy, value, identity and recognition.

Born in Brisbane in 1954, Lee's parents emigrated from China in the context of the White Australia policy. As an Australian with Chinese ancestry, Lee's practice has moved across a wide range of cultural influences. From the 1990s, Lee began to integrate family portraits into her work. At the same time, she began exploring Buddhist philosophy and Taoism, which led to greater introspection and the exploration of chance in large-scale sculptures that involved burning holes through paper or pouring metal onto the ground to create randomly formed shapes that Lee then arranged into a wall sculpture.

In 2020-21, Lee received the major survey Lindy Lee; Moon in a Dew Drop, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, which toured nationally. A major commission, Ouroboros, was announced by the National Gallery of Australia in 2021, adding to existing commissions Lee has made for the Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, City of Sydney Council, and Tower of Ten Billion Stars, Sanya Bay, Hainan Island, China. In 2019, a portrait of Lee by Tony Costa won the Archibald Prize. Lee lives and works in northern New South Wales.