Below The Surface is a much anticipated solo exhibition of drawings by British artist Irene Lees. Produced between 2011-2019 the show brings together two new bodies of work, inspired by both Pablo Picasso and Sylvia Plath, alongside selected drawings from the past decade.
Irene Lees’ ever-questioning mind, her curiosity for human psychology, social history and injustice, is the driving force behind her work. Contained in these tightly conceived and intricately constructed drawings, is a strongly felt human emotion and spirit that filters through.
Through meticulous skill, research and application, she creates what she describes as her ‘artwork essays’; Hand-drawn rhythmic loops or layers of text, in an almost digital like rendering, which tell the stories of her chosen subjects. 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.’”
Injustices borne by women are a constant concern for this female artist, which we see in four of the five series; the Picasso series, the Boko Haram series, the History of Body Packaging and the Votes for women. Here we demonstrate in more detail the motivation behind the two new series.