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True Ch'ien: the exile awakens #8, from the series True Ch'ien



Lindy Lee


1954 –

  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    Media category
    Materials used
    chinese ink, fire and giclée print
    153.7 x 102.6 cm
    Signature & date

    Signed and dated, verso l.l., pencil " Lindy Lee / 2018".

    Purchased with funds provided by the Contemporary Collection Benefactors 2021
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Lindy Lee/Copyright Agency

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    Artist information
    Lindy Lee

    Works in the collection


  • About

    Lindy Lee draws on her Australian and Chinese heritage to develop works that engage with narratives of personal identity and critically consider questions of cultural authenticity. Lee’s art, which traverses painting, sculpture, installation, and more recently, public art, frequently reflects upon her heritage and the influence of Taoist and Ch’an (Zen) Buddhist philosophies. Lee works with a diverse range of processes and materials in her practice, from molten bronze to fire and rain, turning the unpredictable and the elemental into expressive forces.

    This work, True Ch’ien, comprises a series of ten prints that trace the story of one of Lee’s favourite kōans. Kōans are enlightenment stories of the great Zen Buddhist masters or mistresses that often contain paradoxes. The narrative here, however, is punctuated by burn marks. These burns create voids in the imagery and allow light to pierce through the surface of the work.

    True Ch’ien is a captivating story of love, freedom and courage. Ch’ien, the protagonist of the story, falls in love with a boy, though her father has promised her to another man. Together, Ch’ien and the boy elope. They marry, have two children and live happily together. As the years advance, Ch’ien feels restless from guilt and longing for her father so decides to return to her village with her husband. The husband apologises to Ch’ien’s father and relays their experiences over the previous few years. The father turns pale and explains that Ch’ien has been bedridden in a coma for many years. Ch’ien had split into two: one had departed and one remained. When the departed Ch’ien approaches the bedridden Ch’ien, the Ch’ien on the bed wakes up and the two become one again.

    The rupture that this tale recounts through the story of the split self that is eventually sutured together can be seen as a metaphoric echo of the central tenets that anchor Lee’s practice. Playing out another rupture, Lee has often used her work as a means to reconcile her mixed heritage, feeling neither Chinese or Australian, but both.

  • Places

    Where the work was made


Other works by Lindy Lee

See all 22 works