“Light Paintings” presents a collection of Lee’s most recent paintings, drawings, and 3-D printed sculptures. ‘Light’ refers to the age-old formal quandary of creating the illusion of light upon a two dimensional surface. From Caravaggio’s chiaroscuro to Rothko’s Chapel paintings, the representation of light has mesmerized and confounded painters since the discipline’s inception. For Lee ‘light’ is not the ‘emanation of God’s spirit’ that Turner so passionately preached but the plush electronic light of touch-screen-technology that, in effect, has become the beacon of salvation for our information age. In these works conventional subjects are rendered in unconventional light — a light that doesn’t simply bask the subject but instead illuminates it from within like our electronic screens. ‘Light’ not only refers to the light of the machine but also refers to the antidote of consumer culture and its excessive tendencies: light cigarettes, light soda; light music. Light Paintings are easier to understand and to ‘like’, they are less filling and lightly express the profundity of the superficial.
NYC-based Austin Lee has become internationally known for concretizing the
experience of living life through screens in the traditional medium of painting. Lee drafts his idiosyncratic pictures on an iPad then transfers them to paintings and drawings using airbrush and conventional painting techniques. The resulting compositions see subtle shifts play out
between the hand and digital, the computerized and corporeal that has
become emblematic of our time. Lee’s cartoon-esque characters, rendered in
abstract, puffy forms and razor sharp lines, are often humorous and haunting, familiar and alien. They are the bi-product of the artist’s subconscious train of thought winding through endless associations of the quotidian and fantastical, the screen world and reality. Lee monumentalizes a new way of visualizing the world mediated by application filters and bold images, one in which the human spirit is not in recess but actively at play, domesticating the digital.