Suminagashi: Under the Microscope with Eric Lee

Artists, Bicycle Fine Art, Blog

Eric Lee in his Wisconsin studio.

“I am the furthest thing from a systematic thinker,” says Bicycle Fine Art artist Eric Lee, introducing his new series of elegant and enigmatic black and white paint works on paper. The series, so far intentionally left untitled, embraces a new level of conscious uncertainty in Lee’s process, harnessing a quiet chaos in their stately form.

Eric Lee Untitled, No. 1, 2016 [EL.18] Industrial paint and ink on paper Framed: 16.5 x 13 in.

Eric Lee
Untitled, No. 1, 2016
[EL.18]
Industrial paint and ink on paper
Framed: 16.5 x 13 in.

As with all of Eric’s work, the process itself is fascinating in its blend of tradition with experimentation. “People use marbling interchangeably with suminagashi… [and] I don’t like marbling,” he says. Untitled 1-6 uses a twist on suminagashi, the ancient Japanese form of floating pigment on water and then capturing an image from that surface. Other cultures have claimed similar forms of aqueous artworks, throughout East Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East.

Eric Lee
Untitled, No. 4, 2016
[EL.21]
Industrial paint and ink on paper
Framed: 19.25 x 15.25 in.

Eric Lee
Untitled, No 5, 2016
[EL.22]
Industrial paint and ink on paper
Framed: 17.25 x 15.25 in.

Eric was drawn to the medium first in 2006 because it played on the unexpected, and the artistic ability to read and react –to channel the spontaneity in a way. “I was really into monotype. Any kind of mono work,” Eric says of the works on paper, “In the past I was using pressure. I like the effects of what it does. I was working with all kinds of things done with pressure. Running things over with your car.” These different experiments crafted the work into what it is today, and vision on what it represents. “I personally think it’s more akin to photography, because you’re capturing [something] that’s right there. It’s a snapshot,” he notes.

For the pieces, Eric uses leftover industrial paint he discovered at his house after the last tenant moved away. These materials have become the basis of his suminagashi works, and Eric is fascinated by the completely unexpected way each can of paint responds to water. The pigments all react uniquely, and a gloss from one company works wildly different than a mask from the same one. “Capturing a chemical reaction,” is how Eric describes the process.

Eric Lee Untitled, No.  6, 2016 [EL.23] Industrial paint and ink on paper Framed: 15.25 x 15.25 in. Br>  

Eric Lee
Untitled, No.  6, 2016
[EL.23]
Industrial paint and ink on paper
Framed: 15.25 x 15.25 in.

What interests me most about this process is how I came to think of it; what began purely as experimentation became a search for specifics and, ultimately, about the physical realities of situations and the intimacy that breeds.” – Eric Lee

The free form washes of pigment are almost unrecognizable as part repertoire of Eric’s work when you look at them alongside his meticulous sculptural paintings. The sculptural pieces have a narrative with a focused intent, and a hyperaware attention to detail. The black and white pieces are, by contrast, organic and loose, displaying forms of life without a story, that are no less fascinating. In comparison to the sculptural paintings, Eric says: “I was trying to find a way to fragment stuff. My goal has been to try to get it to act in ways I haven’t seen. These little cellular things happen. They look like slides [under a microscope]…you get clusters of things going on. They look like little colonies of something.”

 

Eric Lee Untitled, No. 3, 2016 [EL.20] Industrial paint and ink on paper Framed: 15.25 x 19.25 in.

Eric Lee
Untitled, No. 3, 2016
[EL.20]
Industrial paint and ink on paper
Framed: 15.25 x 19.25 in.

Eric Lee Untitled, No. 2, 2016 [EL.19] Industrial paint and ink on paper Framed: 15.25 x 19.25 in.

Eric Lee
Untitled, No. 2, 2016
[EL.19]
Industrial paint and ink on paper
Framed: 15.25 x 19.25 in.

 

Some of Eric’s larger scale works created in this style have been commissioned by companies around the Eau Claire, Wisconsin area. This Untitled series, featured individually or in a set, each on their own, with soft gradations, contours, and crisp dark color would contrast beautifully in both a vibrant or coolly painted room and will undoubtedly be a wonderful edition to any home with an eye on design.

For more information about these paintings, contact: info@bicyclefineart.com

Posted by

Lisa-Thi Beskar, Art Advisor & Curator