Karsten Greve

Catherine Lee

06 Sep - 01 Nov 2014

© Catherine Lee (American, born 1950)
Makes Green (Quanta #60), 2013
Oil on wood
20.3 x 20.3 x 2.3 cm. (8 x 8 x 0.9 in.)
6 September – 1 November 2014

Galerie Karsten Greve is pleased to present the exhibition RIFT dedicated to the American artist Catherine Lee. Born in 1950 in Pampa, Texas, the internationally renowned work of Catherine Lee reflects her fascination with abstraction. The artist addresses this issue through different media: monumental bronze sculptures, raku ceramics, oil on wood, canvas or plaster. It is to her paintings that the RIFT exhibition is devoted. The exhibited works were carried out over a long period, which reflects not only the continued commitment of the artist vis-à-vis minimalist composition, but also her intimate relationship with the concept of time and repetition. It is interesting to see how the methods remain the same throughout the period of production: in this respect, the artist says my work is always serial, always repetitive; it's like a mark of time, like a memory of being in the world.

The most recent paintings, which are part of the Quanta series, are displayed together with the work carried out from 1970. This body of work reveals one of the main aspects of Catherine Lee's creation, which is dynamic repetition. The starting point for her paintings is a grid, which she conceives as the easiest means of orientation - just like the grids used in cartography for geographic data - which she uses to structure the paint scheme. For the artist, it is the most effective way of creating order in the middle of the void.

The individual cells are filled with colours using multiple methods. The consistent application of layers of colour evokes the automatic and regular rhythm of breathing: the brush stroke becomes an almost existential gesture. As time is divided into units that add up to hours, days and months, each square is similar, but different. The artist consciously avoids including autobiographical traces in her paintings, all the more so given the perception of her work is so linear and narrative. The concept of abstraction is central to the creative process and Catherine Lee conjures her impressions of the landscapes of her childhood. Where I grew up, panoramic views were non-existent, it was flat, and there was nothing to stop the wind from blowing through the empty landscape.

Most of the titles refer to the colours used, for example Mark Yellow, or lines of poetry written by the artist (notably Immediate the Resonance of No). Each painting consists of one to four-colours, although Catherine Lee prefers to limit herself to two tones that radiate a dynamism and a livelier rhythm. The layout grid is always completely filled with a mixed colour, which covers the entire surface of the support. Another mixed colour is laid on, shaping the underlying tone like a two-party agreement. The act of painting is a process that Catherine Lee sees as a form of meditation, among other things. Her work demands great concentration: the slightest distraction could result in the brush escaping, leading to the loss of the painting.

Another important medium for Catherine Lee is sculpture. Although the exhibition consists mainly of paintings, she also presents a selection of ceramic works created using the technique of Raku firing. Silverbacks and Rift are also characterized by repetition, but embody a different quality determined by the physical reality of sculptural elements. As in her paintings, the creative principle of the ceramics is the sequence of formal interconnected units.

Tags: Catherine Lee