The photographer Jacques Henri-Latrigue once wrote that his first darkroom was his own room when he was a child and his lens was the crack through which light penetrated his window shutters.
Karma is pleased to announce a solo exhibition by Paul Lee titled I see with my body now, focusing on his tambourine based works from recent years. Verging on sculpture, the works are made through the combination and integration of various every day objects, which consistently reappear, such as lightbulbs, washcloths, bath towels and soda cans. For over a decade, Lee has used the tambourine object as a medium in his work. His evolving language uses a universally intelligible vocabulary of collective personal narratives to create relationships between reference and form. His practice is a non-linear process, where ideas leave and they come back, they reappear in different forms and different materials—ideas, which reveal the dichotomies of mind and body, body and world, connection and separation, restraint and desire.
These last points, connection, separation, restraint and desire are specifically what the tambourines regard. This object is intrinsically linked to the hand, and the hands function—and thereby desire—is to touch, to hold. However, Lee subverts this with a design to imply restraint and to create a sense of longing in the work. These tambourines will not be touched and will not make a sound—their potential for movement or rhythm is only possible through a pictorial plane.
Around 2008, while making an exhibition using towels and washcloths, Lee was thinking about a persons skin analogous to that of a tambourines. At first, the tambourine was a surface that Lee would paint directly onto. It reminded him of a canvas, pre-stretched around a frame with nails on the side. Soon, he began to stretch canvas around the frame as well as attach them to the sides of a regular rectangular canvas, extending its surface as the instrument protruded like a limb from a body. The newest works arrange the tambourine within the perimeter of the would-be rectangular canvas, filling a cut off corner, as if to complete its figure—like a prosthetic, inorganic but vital.
Lee’s evolving language is in this sense reminiscent of phenomenological Gestalt theory, according to which humans fundamentally tend to recognize ‘contents’ in form. The horizon of our experience with the conventional objects that Lee uses in his work create traces to personal narratives and private conversations. Through abstracting of familiar materials, Lee produces legible references to reality and transposes body into sculpture.