Irene Lees’ ever-questioning mind, her curiosity for human psychology, social history and injustice, is the driving force behind her work. Critically engaged in contemporary society, art history and literature, her work often reflects on the ways the past resonates with current issues, and how we can use our understanding of the past as a lens through which to view the present. She directs her considerable mastery with a pen to achieve an almost digital like rendering, weaving together researched text to form her ‘artwork essays’. Contained in these tightly conceived and intricately constructed works, is a strongly felt human emotion and spirit that filters through.


Writer and critic, Laura Gascoigne, introduces the catalogue for Below The Surface, writing; “Where [Lees] senses social injustice, she will pick up a thread and follow it to the source of the trouble, like Theseus tracking the Minotaur through the maze. Her drawings are a record of these journeys, charged with the emotions felt en route. In contemporary conceptual art research can easily be uncoupled from visual imagination, but Lees’ work is a perfect fusion of the two as she literally weaves the research into the image. Her work is conceptual in the true sense of the word: ‘Every time I’m doing something, it has to have a meaning.’


At 60 Irene Lees embarked upon a BA in Drawing and Applied Arts at the University of the West of England and now, in her mid 70s, her work has regularly featured in the Jerwood Drawing Prize and the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. In 2012 she became is a member of the Society of Women Artists and in 2016 she won the SWA Fine Art Award. Her work is internationally exhibited as well as being held in many private, corporate and Royal collections. She currently lives and works in Cornwall.