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The Struggle between Space and Sentiment: Read Lee
by Taipei Fine Arts Museum
Location: Taipei Fine Arts Museum
Artist(s): Read LEE
Date: 9 Jul - 25 Sep 2011

The important post-war veteran Taiwanese artist Read Lee was born in 1921 into a scholarly family in Jiangsu Province surrounded by poetry, literature, books, paintings, antiques and Beijing opera. They provided him with nourishment in Chinese culture and art. When the Sino-Japanese War broke out in 1937, Read Lee went to Sichuan as an exiled student. He graduated from the Chongqing University in 1945 and came to Taiwan in 1948. In contrast to members of  modern painting movements such as Fifth Moon Group and Ton Fon Art Group at the time, Read Lee did not receive professional art training. However, with his passion for literature and art, he started studying painting with veteran artist Mr Chen Te Wang (1910-1984). During his eight years of study (1956-1964), Chen guided Read Lee in his exploration of space, which would last his entire life.
To Read Lee, creation was an endless conversation between “man”, “heaven” (nature) and “history”, involving a process of the condensation of learning and the sublimation of life. After mastering figuration, Read Lee turned to “abstraction” from 1973, creating layers of rich textures with vigorous brushwork and thick paint, and often using lines of poetry as titles. In 1983, Read Lee returned to the exploration of “dots” and the study of “modeling” in Chinese ink painting. Before starting his late series “Attribute of Emptiness” in 1989, Read Lee depicted his layered inner landscapes and images with powerful brushwork, dots and lines.
One day in 1989, after images of his studio and models emerged in Read Lee’s subconscious, he created a series of 23 works entitled “Attribute of Emptiness”. He once explained that they are depictions of actual “space”, the emptiness of the impermanent world, as well as the genuine emptiness and wondrous presence of solemn Buddha images. His painting style changed from heavy and gloomy to light and clear. His “dots” also became more refined and fused with the colours, achieving a balance between sentiment and rationality.
This exhibition also features a hundred odd drawings by Read lee. Using simple brushwork and lines to vividly convey the human anatomy and sense of space was the sum of his overall thinking. H realized that artistic creation is not just skilful representation, but is linked with life and living. Attempting to understand the “essence” of things, he meticulously studied the structure of space and let the sentiment flow unintentionally and in an original manner. This is the highest achievement of painting. This exhibition is the first comprehensive show in Taiwan of Read Lee’s career and his progression from superficial realism to the truth of essence. Showcasing some 200 drawings, oil paintings and water colours, it will also be screening a documentary on Read Lee’s life and art education in the gallery. The exhibition will give viewers a deep understanding of the subtle and poetic expression of Read Lee’s works and his artistic passion and original ideas.

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