Featured Artist: Mindy Lee

Mindy Lee

Mindy Lee’s paintings use figuration to explore changing autobiographical narratives and memories. Born in Bolton, England, Mindy graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2004 with an MA in Painting. Since graduating, she has held solo exhibitions at Perimeter Space, Griffin Gallery and Jerwood Project Space in London, as well as in a wide range of groups. Performed all over the world, including at the China Academy of Art.

“I love working with acrylic paint. It’s versatile and adaptable, with rich pigmentation. It can be applied like watercolours, ink, oil paint, or sculpturally. There are no rules for the order of application, so you can freely explore.”

Can you tell us a little about your background and how you got started?

I grew up in a family of creative scientists in Lancashire. I’ve always wanted to be an artist and moved around with my art education; completed a foundation course in Manchester, BA (painting) at Cheltenham and Gloucester College, then took a 3 year break, then Master of Arts (Painting) at the Royal College of Art. Then I took two or three (sometimes four) part-time jobs while still stubbornly incorporating my artistic practice into my daily life. I currently live and work in London

Elsie's line (detail), acrylic on polycotton.

Can you tell us a bit about your art practice?

My art practice evolves alongside my own experiences. I mainly use painting and drawing to explore everyday family activities, rituals, memories, dreams and other internal stories and interactions. They have a strange feeling of slipping between one state and another as bodies and scenarios are left open-ended, so there is always the potential to change.

Do you remember the first art material you were given or bought for yourself? What is it and are you still using it today?

When I was 9 or 10 years old, my mom let me use her oil paints. I feel like I have grown up! I don’t use oils now, but I still treasure and use some of her brushes.

See your way, acrylic on silk, 82 x 72 cm.

Is there a particular art material you like to use and what do you like about it?

I like to work with acrylic paints. It is versatile and adaptable with rich pigmentation. It can be applied like watercolor, ink, oil painting or sculpture. The order of application is not stipulated, you can explore freely. It maintains the drawn lines and crisp edges, but also dissipates beautifully. It’s bouncy and it has a very attractive dry time…what’s not to like?

As artistic director of the Bryce Center for Music and Visual Arts, you run a gallery and art education while maintaining your artistic practice, how do you balance the two?

I am very disciplined about my time and myself. I divide my week into specific blocks of work, so some days are studio and some are Blyth. I focus my work on both disciplines. Everyone has moments when they need more of my time, so there is give and take in between. It took years to learn how to do this! But I have now found an adaptive rhythm that works for me. It is also important for my own practice and the Bryce Centre to take some time to think and reflect and allow new ideas to surface.

Do you remember the first art material you were given or bought for yourself? What is it and are you still using it today?

When I was 9 or 10 years old my mum let me use her oil paints. I felt very grown up! I don’t use oils now, but I still treasure and use a few of her brushes.

 Do you feel your art practice is influenced by curatorial projects?

Absolutely. Curating is a great opportunity to learn about other practices, meet new artists, and add to my research on the contemporary art world. I love seeing how art changes when juxtaposed with the work of other artists. Spending time collaborating with other people’s practices and projects naturally affects my own work

How has motherhood influenced your artistic practice?

Becoming a mom has fundamentally changed and strengthened my practice. I work more intuitively now and follow my gut. I think it gave me more confidence. I procrastinated less at work, so I became more focused and direct on the subject and the production process.

Knocking knees (detail), acrylic, acrylic pen, cotton, leggings and thread.

Can you tell us about your double sided dress painting?

These were made by my son when he was a toddler. They stem from my responsive parenting experience. I created extended paintings in response and on top of my son’s paintings. They explore our routines and rituals as we move from hybrid to individual. Using clothes as canvas allows them to play an active role in demonstrating how our bodies change. (My physical perversions during and after pregnancy and the discarded clothes of my growing child.)

What are you doing in the studio now?

A series of small, translucent silk paintings that explore the intimate inner world of love, loss, longing and rejuvenation. I’m in an exciting phase where new things are begging to happen, but I’m not sure what it is, so nothing is fixed and work is changing, surprising me.

Knocking knees (detail), acrylic, acrylic pen, cotton, leggings and thread.

Do you have must-have tools in your studio that you can’t live without? How do you use them and why?

My rigging brushes, rags and sprinklers. The brush creates a very variable line and holds a good amount of paint for longer gestures. A rag is used to apply and remove paint, and a sprayer wets the surface so the paint can do it itself. I use them together to create a fluidity between adding, moving, removing and reapplying.

Are there any routines in your studio that keep you focused as you start your day?

I was running back from school thinking about what I was going to do in the studio. I do a brew and revisit my sketchpad page where I have quick drawings and suggestions for making strategies. Then I just went right in and forgot about my tea and always ended up having it cold.

What are you listening to in the studio?

I prefer a quiet studio so I can focus on what I’m making

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten from another artist?

Paul Westcombe gave me this advice when I was pregnant, but it’s good advice at all times. “When time and space are limited and your studio practice seems impossible, adjust your practice to make it work for you

Do you have any current or upcoming projects that you would love to share with us?

I look forward to exhibiting in A Woman’s Place Is Everywhere, co-curated by Boa Swindler and Infinity Bunce, at the Stoke Newington Library Gallery opening on March 8, 2022. I am also delighted to share that I will be presenting my new work Silk Works, a solo exhibition at Portsmouth Art Space in 2022.

Post time: Feb-25-2022