Rhys Lee likes to keep things to the point. His current exhibition, ‘10 Paintings and 100 Drawings’ at Nicholas Thompson Gallery in Melbourne, is just that: a series of oil-on-canvas artworks entitled ‘Painting 1-10’, and a neat 100 mixed-media-on-paper pieces entitled ‘Drawings 1-100’.
The internationally coveted artist has been working on these paintings at his home studio in the quiet Victorian country town of Birregurra over the past two years, while he began to produce the pastel and charcoal drawings from January this year, including when visiting New York and Germany. ‘It’s always interesting to work in a restricted or unfamiliar environment compared to the comfort of the studio,’ reflects the former Archibald Prize finalist.
The vivid artworks explore mysterious, eerie scenarios and debauchery, starring Rhys’ signature, vaguely grotesque figures – a cast of cowboys, circus outcasts, humanlike animals and other skeletal subjects. For this epic showcase, the instinctive artist made his selections quite randomly. ‘The process could be different depending on the weather, or what you might be drinking at the time!’ he jokes, though highlighting that a theme of hands and hats coincidently emerged.
During the mid 90’s, the artist studied Graphic Design at Griffith University in Brisbane, though he was more committed to creating graffiti and developing his fine art practice. As Rhys tells the story, he moved to Melbourne in 1999 to immerse himself in the art and culture he felt he was missing out on, and today has over 30 solo exhibitions to his name. ‘I held painting and drawing in high regard, so a career in Graphic Design was never going to work out, too many compromises and hoops to jump through,’ says the forthright creative. ‘The only brief that I wanted to follow was my own.’
An industrious worker, Rhys dedicates a great deal of time to his practice, seeing every hour spent as a chance to evolve artistically and personally. ‘I work quickly, making a lot of work so the evolution gets a little sped up sometimes,’ he explains. ‘I want to keep going forward, and becoming better in all aspects.’
And so, true to form, Rhys is; he’s looking forward to building a new studio in the coming months, and we’re hoping ‘more space and a clean slate’ facilitates many more captivating artworks and exhibitions.
‘10 Paintings and 100 Drawings’ by Rhys Lee
October 14th to November 5th
Nicholas Thompson Gallery
155 Langridge St, Collingwood, Melbourne