Critics’ Picks

Austin Lee, Self Portrait, 2016, Flashe acrylic on canvas, 20 x 20".

Austin Lee, Self Portrait, 2016, Flashe acrylic on canvas, 20 x 20".


Austin Lee

Lane 298, Anfu Road Building 2
November 8–December 17, 2016

In The Shoe Wearers (all works 2016), two lines of 3-D-printed, hand-painted sculptures queue along the sides of the entrance stairs to the rest of Austin Lee’s current exhibition at BANK’s new semi-basement venue. The show’s sculptural touch provides clues about the artist’s interest in humanizing digital materials. Lee transfers iPad sketches to canvas via airbrush and paintbrush, involving his hand in compositional shifts even while preserving the initial sense of the digital generated by drawing applications. Paintings such as Light Weight, involve 3-D-modeling software that fully enables the artist to manipulate his perspective at will and to capture one such perspectival moment on canvas. The resulting imagery often renders familiar-looking figures performing a bizarre gesture. Another twisted pose is found in Lee’s Self Portrait, wherein his neck is bent so that his head and shoulders become parallel. The work encourages visitors to imitate the hilarious position, as is in evidence on Instagram. The identities of other figures depicted are not as obvious as that of the self-portrait, even though the artist draws from personal experience. Hard edges appear now and then as if to bring narrative clarity, in works such as Sunday Drive, but even here the faces of the people (presumably seated in a car) look blurry due to Lee’s airbrushed rendering of his subjects.

The ease with which Lee switches between digital and analog platforms points to the flexibility of the artist, who uses multiple approaches in representing the world around him. But the tools featured in iPad drawing apps also simulate existing painterly techniques, so in themselves they do not necessarily introduce a radical break with older methodologies. Rather than being the ultimate problem-solving device, an iPad functions as a processor where visual information is temporarily saved and edited. Moving from screen to canvas, Lee explores what sort of human touch is required to affect viewers either lightly or profoundly.