Mindy Lee

Mindy Lee lives and works in South London. Lee studied at Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Eduction, where she gained a BA (Hons) in Fine Art Painting in 1999, and went on to study at The Royal College of Art London, where she later gained her MA in Painting in 2004. Lee also curates and runs the Blyth Gallery where she exhibited her collection of work ‘Better out than in Venus’. In an interview with WIA, Lee described her creative process as “Autobiographical stories (exploring inner and outer states.) Shifting and slipping moments that depict figures as a beautiful grotesque. Their interactions often involve a power play, love and struggle, humour and loss, or a reflection on shifting identities.” Lee also enjoys painting with acrylic on a wide variety of surfaces including different fabrics, and textiles, as well as plates.

Exploring tondo’s and works on circular or oval surfaces I decided upon the above works by Lee, ‘Better out that in Venus’ and ‘Margaret’, painted with acrylic on aluminium plates. As Lee describes above in her creative process I do sense a beautiful grotesque nature in these creations. ‘Margaret’ seems more wistful and light, where as ‘Better out than in Venus’ has a gritty tone, due to the positioning of the woman, with her feet facing us, my immediate response is that this woman is perhaps laying down from one too many drinks! The painting surrounding the body feels confusing and chaotic which might represent the woman’s state of mind. I also wonder about the title ‘Better out than in’ originally when I saw Venus I immediately though of the classic painting ‘The birth of Venus’, and the whisper of ginger hair seems to confirm this, is she referring to the actual birth? Or is my initial reaction more apt – has she vomitted in her drunken stupor and its ‘better out than in’? I’ve tried to research this collection in particular but found difficulty in making more sense of it other than my initial reactions.

The Birth of Venus, 1486, Sandro Botticelli

Thinking about my response to the works of Lee I decided to research a little more into the classical painting of ‘The Birth if Venus’ by Sandro Botticelli. According to the Ancient History EncyclopaediaIn Roman mythology, Venus was the goddess of love, sex, beauty, and fertility. She was the Roman counterpart to the Greek Aphrodite. However, Roman Venus had many abilities beyond the Greek Aphrodite; she was a goddess of victory, fertility, and even prostitution. According to Hesiod’s Theogony, Aphrodite was born of the foam from the sea after Saturn (Greek Cronus) castrated his father Uranus (Ouranus) and his blood fell to the sea. “

This connection to the goddess Venus correlates with Lee’s creative process as Venus then becomes a symbol of femininity, identity, love and fertility, although the positioning of Venus in Lee’s work transforms her into something more real and human.

Once I had created the tondo photographic image of ‘The Birth of Venus’ I set about recreating the image on a paper plate. I used watered down acrylic, painting it in layers. It tended to sit on the surface a while, I think this was because the plates were coated in some kind of waterproof sealant to increase the life of their usage, which meant I had to be quite patient in allowing the layers to dry. I purposefully tried to use a painterly style more in line with the works of Lee, although upon reflection Lee leaves space on the plate for Venus to breathe, and I have covered the entire circular surface, depicting the classical image. I wonder how the image would feel if I had only perhaps painted Venus on the scalloped shell, and was a little more restricted in my use of bold colour.

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