Peering into the space between cultures

29-May-2013

Glynis Lee Multi-faceted identities (detail), 2009, screenprint on silk paper, dimensions variable

An exhibition tracing the journey of a Charles Darwin University PhD graduate, as she seeks to re-discover her Chinese heritage while recognising her identity as a Territorian, will open this Friday night.

“Balancing on Borderlines” reflects Glynis Lee’s search for cultural belonging and identity, travelling to China for several months and researching her family history in the NT, which began near Pine Creek in the 1870s.

“As an Australian-born Chinese person, I often struggle with my place in each culture,” Ms Lee said. “Often I feel like I exist in the space between both cultures, and that I am moving amongst a variety of spaces between cultures depending on different situations.”

Exploring this “third-dimension”, Ms Lee’s exhibition is a fusion of imagery and media from Australian and Chinese cultures including sculpture, print-making and audio-visual media.

“As a printmaker and artist I wanted to learn more about my heritage and combine different forms of printmaking to create two and three-dimensional contemporary artwork,” she said.

Ms Lee travelled to China as part of her PhD to learn traditional woodblock printmaking techniques and calligraphy techniques that feature throughout her artwork.

“The pieces incorporate layers of language and imagery, including family portraits, Territory landscapes, notions of home, and video interviews about cultural belonging.”

During her research, Ms Lee wanted not only to investigate her own cultural identity, but also the multiple identities of other Australians with Chinese heritage.

“A lot of people from various backgrounds are trying to grapple with where they fit with their heritage and culture,” she said.

“I interviewed participants about their use of heritage language, cultural beliefs and practices, along with questions about family, history, discrimination and incidents of inclusion and exclusion.

“This historical and cultural research provided a theoretical background for my studio practice.”

As part of her research, Ms Lee also looked at the fading of culture through the generations, focusing on a small group of Australian-born Chinese.

The exhibition will open at 6pm on Friday, May 31 at Mayfair on Harriet Gallery, a newly renovated art space in 6 Harriet Place. The exhibition will run until June 8.

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