18 June 2011

Gallery interview: Rhys Lee

Rhys Lee, image courtesy of Cory White / Mr Blanc

We sat down with Rhys Lee for a quick chat about his newest exhibition Scarecrow...

Tell us about the process of putting this show together?

I have always had in my mind that I wanted to make vessels and as you know I’ve made bronze things before but I ran out of money so I had to come up with a way of making new works on the cheap so I decided I’d get some clay. It’s a lot less expensive but it’s actually a lot harder because you are making something that becomes the finished product... when you make a bronze you can make it out of anything it goes into a mould and becomes a bronze thing so it was a lot more difficult than making a bronze.

It’s been really nice as well, Pia had a little show of ceramic stuff and that got me really interested in doing it when I saw that she was quite good at it and made some really beautiful things. Our studios at home are right next to each other, we see can each other and work in the same space and ideas bounce off each other so the work evolves together and almost becomes one work in a lot of ways.

bird 2011

What about the other artists you worked with for this exhibition?

They are all people that I admire and have a reasonably close relationship with, some I’ve known a long time, some not that long. I'd been wanting to curate a show for a long time with people’s work I really love and seeing all their work together. With this show I really liked the idea of an eclectic group of work that feels like someone’s collection almost and I think the show has that feeling. Usually people’s collections have a few things like a sculpture, a painting and drawing so there is that element to it as well that I like. I wanted to mix it up and make it more interesting than just paintings on the wall.

irma (picnic at hanging rock) 2011
collaboration with Heidi Yardley

What would you say are your main influences at the moment?

That’s a really strange question because I am easily influenced by things. I might see something while walking down the street or I might look at someone’s blog and there might be a photo I’ll remember or go back to. If I feel like doing a painting I’ll just go down to the studio and maybe turn my phone on and that image will come up and I’ll start painting that image and that will evolve into something else. Like a visual memory that feeds into the work? Yeah. I think so. Yeah. So it’s constantly different things influencing the work.

Can you tell us a little about your background and what led you to become an artist?

I was never discouraged to draw or paint or do that stuff growing up. My parents were always pretty good with that and encouraging me. If you don’t get told not to do something I suppose you just keep doing it if you feel like doing it. It’s always been a constant thing that just kept going. The graffiti thing was a pretty big part of my life for awhile in the nineties - pretty much all the nineties - then I moved to Melbourne. I had no money so I started doing drawings then selling them to people, trying to get them into shops and I had work up in Fat 52 (now FAT) they would buy drawings off me so that gave me a bit of a kick-start showing work here and then it just evolved from that into the gallery thing.

the bunyip that William Buckley saw 2011

Do you have a typical day in the studio? What does that involve?

There’s never really a typical day in the studio. When I am making work for a show I will dedicate a solid block of maybe 3 or 4 months everyday I’ll go to the studio. I’ll be working on bits and pieces, maybe work on a painting for an hour then do a bit of sculpture, a lot of the time is spent pacing around thinking.

Do you have a dream project?

I don’t have a dream project... It changes depending on what I’m working on at the time I suppose it’s not about one definitive project it’s about how I am feeling at the time. If I want to make some ceramics then I’ll dedicate time to making that and I’ll have an outcome and be happy. Or if I want to make a book I’ll make a book and be happy with that and if I want to make 10 paintings… It’s more about the little things than one big thing.

baboon 2011

I think you were asked this recently… If you could live with any artwork every made what would it be?

There are nice things that would be nice to have around but there’s not one thing. No one could be happy with one thing. That’s why people buy stuff - that’s why people have ten pairs of shoes!
boxer, 2011
collaboration with Rob McHaffie

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