KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

Column: Art / Music / Theatre

My shadow flows into the world: Lindy Lee and explorations of self

by Estelle Tang , June 5, 20123 Comments

Upon entering Lindy Lee’s latest exhibition in Melbourne, ‘Mystical Realism – A Record Of Things Experienced’, I was confronted by a range of images, textures, shapes, patterns, configurations and materials. Among the more traditional painterly and sculptural media of paper, ink, linen, steel and bronze, Lee also lists ‘fire’ and ‘rain’ as instruments of creation. These weather elements don’t appear in physical form, but their presence is clearly visible in the burns and watermarks left singed and streaked across the fifteen works exhibited.

The remnants of ‘fire’, as well as evidence of Lee’s own beliefs (she is a dedicated Zen Buddhist), are seen in Mudras 1-11, a series of eleven small photographs (each 40 x 30 cm) of human hands in various positions, printed onto black steel, and burnt through with holes of varying size. Mudras are specific hand gestures often used in Buddhist iconography and meditation, each associated with a specific meaning or narrative. The hands in Lee’s photographs appear to be performing these signs, but due to the rust-coloured burns and holes in the steel, the details of each photo become obscured. One hand is raised, as if waving – or is it protesting? Another holds a flame, as if to light its bearer’s way – or perhaps to create the very holes and burns that make it so difficult to discern the flame’s purpose. In this way, Lee folds her own pyrographic practice back upon itself, and the distinction between the creator and the created becomes blurred.

Furthermore, her conflation of the spiritual, the bodily, the creative and the quotidian in Mudras 1-11 invites gallery visitors to reflect upon their own practice of interpreting art. I found myself asking: to what extent should interpretative practice be understood as a rite? Or should viewing art be considered a more mundane activity, part and parcel of the work of a critic? Lee seems to suggest that the spiritual should not be separated from the ‘everyday’, and that both should wholly inform the interpretation of our own and others’ expression and experience.

Left to right: Lindy Lee, Elemental, 2012. Bronze, 150cm diameter, and Fragments of the Way, 2012. Bronze, 130 cm diameter. Photo Credit: Andrew Curtis.

The process of meditating upon Lee’s work became especially profound for me while considering Elemental and Fragments of the Way, two sets of hardened bronze shapes, each constellated in a circle and mounted on the wall. In relationship to similar works exhibited in 2009, Lee stated:

Ch’an (Zen) Buddhist monks would meditate for a period of time and then fling the ink from a container. The mark that results encapsulates the totality of the universe – the sum of all conditions, which underlie the creation of ‘this’ moment.

Elemental and Fragments of the Way mimic this practice, using bronze instead of ink, and the longer I stared at the ‘marks’, the more images and stories were illuminated before me. Windswept grass. A ruffled wave. Brains. A frog, a moose, and antlers, a cat playing with a child. Howling angels. A skeletal surgeon operating on a corpse. Fairies. Intestines and a dinosaur. Clouds. Clods. A rose in a clutch of bones. I eventually realised that all the pictures I saw in the splattered bronze shapes were images or combinations of images that I had absorbed from my own experience. Lee’s ‘moment’, splattered across the gallery wall, represents an infinity of imagery and ideas. You both affect and are within creational forces, Lee seems to say.


My Shadow Flows Into the World – detail. Photo Credit: Andrew Curtis.

A work even more affecting than the flung bronze was My Shadow Flows into the World. This installation comprises six large rectangular sheets of milled steel (each about 200 x 90 cm) perforated with holes made from fire. One piece, My Shadow Flows Into the World (stones flying up to heaven), is covered in holes so large that the steel becomes a mere frame for Lee’s shadow – or our own – to flow through into the wider universe. Another, My Shadow Flows into the World (burning into water) is so burned and blackened that barely any of the steel’s original lustre shines through. Steel and fire and air and shadows are constellated and re-constellated as the sheets are viewed from different angles, perhaps suggesting that the idea of the ‘self’ as we understand it is actually as malleable and intangible as the light that may flow through it.

Although this collection points in every case to the elemental, the universal and the fluidity of self, there is something intensely personal about these artworks. In pointing viewers to different understandings of the self and the world, Lee also presents us with herself in the world – or the world in herself – and provides viewers with the privilege of using her own record of experience to interpret our own existence.

‘Mystical Realism – A Record of Things Experienced’ is at the Sutton Gallery, 254 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, until 23 June 2012.

All images courtesy of the artist and the Sutton Gallery, Melbourne.

Julia Tulloh is a Melbourne-based writer.

West Bank

David Donaldson

Whitewashing occupation? Bill Shorten and the Israel Lobby

Racism and military occupation have no place in the modern world, and are certainly not something looked upon favourably by a majority of Australians. Yet while apartheid, for example, has become a byword for shame and racism, the Labor Opposition leader feels comfortable asserting that some Israeli West Bank settlements are legal. Read more »

Tony Abbott

David Donaldson

Abbott and Brandis’ culture war backfires

What is supposed to happen in a culture war is that conservatives use a controversial issue to drive a ‘wedge’ through the left, forcing a split between factions. In Australia, this usually means pitting Catholic unionists against their socially liberal colleagues in the Labor party. Read more »

climate change

David Donaldson

Australia is going backwards on climate policy

During the Howard years, it was usual for Australia to be awarded ‘Fossil of the Day’ by climate advocacy groups whenever it attended a climate negotiation conference. The award signifies the country that had done the most to hinder climate change negotiations, and Australia has won a pile of them. Read more »

Zoe Pilger

Carody Culver

Girls, eat your hearts out

Middle class hipsters, conceptual artists and third-wave feminists have long been easy targets for mockery, so I admit that I wasn’t expecting anything too groundbreaking when I picked up Zoe Pilger’s Eat My Heart Out, a satirical romp through contemporary London that reads like a surreal mash-up of Broad City, Bridget Jones’s Diary and Less Than Zero. Read more »

Laika, Astronaut Dog

Carody Culver

Houston, we have a fabrication

As someone who doesn’t have children, I’m no less resistant than any of my book-loving friends-with-kids to the charm of a beautiful picture book. So when I spotted Laika: Astronaut Dog by writer and illustrator Owen Davey, with its charming retro-style artwork Read more »

& Sons

Carody Culver

WASPiration: David Gilbert’s & Sons

As someone who’s always secretly aspired to being a WASP (before you mercilessly judge me for this, I should clarify that my desire has less to do with attaining elevated social and financial status than with being able to dress like a character in The Great Gatsby Read more »

American Pickers

Julia Tulloh

Eccentric junk collectors held high on American Pickers

The History Channel’s American Pickers, currently in its sixth season, is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable reality series on TV. It’s not a competition show, it doesn’t exist to objectify people and it isn’t particularly dramatic. So what’s the appeal? Read more »

Justin Timberlake

Julia Tulloh

Pleasantly forgettable: Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience

On 7 March this year, tickets went on sale for the Australian leg of Justin Timberlake’s latest tour, ‘The 20/20 Experience’. All five shows sold out in a few hours. The same day, five new shows were released, with most tickets for these rapidly selling out too. Read more »


Julia Tulloh

BuzzFeed quizzes understand me

If you use social media regularly – Facebook, in particular – you’ll have completed a BuzzFeed quiz during the past month. Don’t deny it. Even if you didn’t share your results online, deep down you’re still feeling smug because the ‘What Should You Actually Eat For Lunch?’ quiz confirmed that eating ice cream was, in fact, an appropriate meal for your personality type. Read more »

The Lego Movie

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Nostalgia and today’s family-friendly films

Hollywood has always known the adults are watching alongside the kids, and that to push a film into record profits (as Lego looks set to do with a global box office of $428 million and counting), you need to appeal to ‘kids of all ages’. Read more »


Rochelle Siemiennowicz

Weirdos on screen: Noah and Nymphomaniac

There are some filmmakers you’ll follow into the dark, no matter how bad the buzz is about their latest work. For me, naughty boy Lars von Trier (The Idiots, Breaking the Waves, Dogville, Antichrist, Melancholia) and strange kid Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan) are two filmmakers who can be loved or detested, but never ignored. Read more »


Rochelle Siemienowicz

Notes from a plane

There’s an art to choosing the right film for every particular occasion, and as I nervously sit in a Qantas jet about to take off on a four-hour flight from Melbourne to Perth, the choice seems very important indeed. Read more »


Connor Tomas O'Brien

The Web as an Empathy Machine

Ad hoc Twitter projects like #RaceSwapExp neatly draw together all that is terrific and all that is terrible about the web as a system. Depending on how it is used, the web can either allow us to retreat into callousness, cliques, and fixed ways of thinking or it can function as the world’s most sophisticated and effective empathy machine. Read more »

Samsung fingers

Connor Tomas O'Brien

‘Fooled’ by technology

As I browsed the web last Tuesday, something struck me: tech companies can no longer pull off compelling April Fools’ Day hoaxes because there’s no longer even the thinnest line delineating sincerity from spoof. Read more »


Connor Tomas O'Brien

Flight 370 and gaps in the internet

On Twitter the other day, sandwiched between a slew of links to articles about the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, somebody tweeted a link to the website for Tile, a Bluetooth-enabled device that can be attached to physical objects, enabling them to be located within a 150-foot range. Read more »

Magabala Books

Danielle Binks

Magabala Books and the importance of Indigenous YA literature

Magabala is Australia’s leading independent Indigenous publishing house based in Broome, Western Australia. An independent Aboriginal Corporation since 1990, Magabala’s objective is, ‘restoring, preserving and maintaining Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures.’ Read more »

Young Adulthood Books

Danielle Binks

The young adult books of my young adulthood

In March, Penguin Books Australia rereleased Melina Marchetta’s first novel as part of its Australian Children’s Classics series. Looking for Alibrandi was first published in 1992; the first print run sold out in two months, and Marchetta’s debut went on to win the Children’s Book Council of Australia Children’s Book of the Year Award. Read more »

When You Reach Me

Danielle Binks

A children’s lit prize of one’s own

Earlier this year, Readings Bookstore announced the creation of The Readings Children’s Book Prize. The eligibility criteria for the 2014 Prize was specified as ‘a work of published fiction, written for children aged 5–12’. Read more »


Chad Parkhill

Radical honesty: EMA’s The Future’s Void

Erica M. Anderson’s recently released second solo album, The Future’s Void, has been for the most part well-received by critics – albeit with some caveats. Read more »

music theory

Chad Parkhill

Do music critics need music theory?

Canadian musician Owen Pallett – the man who arranged the strings on Arcade Fire’s albums, co-wrote the soundtrack for Spike Jonze’s Her, and has a bunch of wonderful solo albums – can now add another feather to his cap: that of an engaging music writer. Read more »

Tune Yards

Chad Parkhill

Drips, leaks, and spurts

I’ve spent the last two weeks in a state of perpetual excitement – musically speaking, that is. First came tUnE-yArDs’ new song, ‘Water Fountain’, a joyous, riotous explosion of colour and movement. Then Swans released ‘A Little God in My Hands’, a seven-minute epic of a track … Read more »


Stephanie Van Schilt

Diary of a lurker: TV and Twitter

At the end of last month, global information provider Nielsen announced that Australia was to become the third country in the world with the ‘Nielsen TV Twitter Ratings’ service. According to a Nielsen Company press release, the Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings are ‘the first-ever measure of the total activity and reach of TV-related conversation on Twitter’. Read more »

Broad City

Stephanie Van Schilt

Funny Broads

‘All comparisons between Girls and Broad City should be hereto forth banned from the internet.’ I agree with Katherine Brooks. Yet the comparisons continue, ad nauseam, mostly following one of two lines of thought. Read more »

The Carrie Diaries

Stephanie Van Schilt

‘Alive Girl’ TV: The Carrie Diaries

Get ready to feel old: it’s been ten years since the final episode of Sex and the City aired. I’m not talking about the first episode back in 1998, but the final episode – the one before the two questionable movies were released. Read more »