One November evening, I headed to Tulse Hill Railway Tavern to meet with the artist, Lee Edwards to discuss his new body of work. I can pin point exactly when my interest in his work began, which occurred whilst a student at the Royal College of Art. Lee was one year ahead and due to graduate in 2005. I would sometimes wander around the 2nd year studios at Kensington Gore and I remember walking into Lee’s space, which was surprisingly, very neat and ordered. I remember seeing remnants or possible beginnings involving a pile of used tea bags and there was a carrier bag laced in intricate black biro marks, quietly motionless on the studio walls.
It was then he unwrapped his exquisite indigo blue painting of a puddle, appearing as a small fragment upon the corner of an unprimed rectangle of MDF. At the tavern over a pint, Lee told me how the puddle was of a moment shared with a past love. “It was when I had just bought a camera and was trying it out by taking random pictures.” Some time later, the puddle was cathartically painted and as if to preserve the memory of that moment in time. The scene depicts a photographic fragment of a tarmac road, with melting snow sludge impressed with tyre tracks. The puddle reflects something, a figure may be or the corner of a building. This artwork and other painted fragments were later embedded into an already painted white wall at his degree show, as if to mend the imperfections and ‘sense of loss’ with something beautiful.
The painted puddle itself was so tiny, yet so much detail was present and this made the artwork seem really precious. The level of detail bordered upon the impossible. Edward’s work in a funny way is an irresistible kind of pocket art. I remember once he showed me an art piece that came from his pocket wrapped in tissue. It reminded me of precious miniatures kept by lovers around their neck or a love token or talisman.
His artwork, once possessed, should almost be carried close to you as it is best viewed in an intimate and personal way; to be picked up an examined at close proximately. Lee Edwards understands the fetish quality of his work and perhaps quietly seeks to impress and encourage this desire to touch and possess his artworks.
I discovered Lee Edwards was a man who enjoyed the laborious and the painfully tedious assault that an artwork might decide to throw at him, evident in his meticulous renderings. Lee is an obsessive maker, creating detailed work on unusual and unexpected surfaces. His early work is more ‘Richteresque’ with the softness of edges, found in the painted duplications of photographic imagery. There is a nod of course to the tradition of miniatures, painted on oak surfaces and evident in Edward’s similar use of scale upon wooden supports, whether it is MDF, a plank of wood or even a fallen conker.
I ask where his desire to make such intricate works began?
“I spent my teenage years, as I’m sure many people my age did, engrossed in painting citadel miniatures, painstakingly bringing these metal and plastic figures to life.”
Combine this obsessive detail with his understated, subdued and almost hidden presentations of his artworks and they become a gift for the careful observer.
After leaving the RCA, Lee Edwards began a series of work that involved delicately scraping the emulsion away from photographs of rooms using a pin. The resulting outcome was of a ghostly skeleton, reminiscent of the intricate mesh of a fallen and decaying leaf. He used accidental pictures with double exposures, which seemed simultaneously to reflect both the interior and exterior. Nature began to invade the floors and walls of these private spaces. Depictions of houses or rooms evoke a feeling of closed privacy, perhaps a symbolic projection of the internal mind of its inhabitants. In Lee Edwards’s photos, the removal of walls, create an image of contradiction where the personal space becomes exposed or infiltrated by the outsider’s gaze.
In the same way, Lee Edwards repeatedly reveals and conceals the personal space of his past. He began a series of painting faces of people on conkers and upon small cross sections of timber, secretly extracted from face book profiles or snapshots without the person even noticing. These faces were of women that he felt an affinity with, or of a lost or unrequited love. The women are recognizable perhaps only to them when they come face to face with the artwork. To others, they are unknown mystery women. Clues to a possible narrative are contained in Lee’s titles, such as “I was too shy.”
“There are imperfections in specific places, which form a predetermined composition. Natural wood, unlike MDF has knots which guides me to place imagery in certain areas.. the wood is not in the best condition but it has character and a history to it. I make use of imperfections such as screw holes as form of guidance. It is comforting that some variables are predetermined. Just a tweak here and there turns the wood into something else. It is important that it is a found object and I have only altered it in a subtle way. “
For more information, visit Lee Edwards’ website: