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Lindy Lee was born in Brisbane, the daughter of refugees from Communist China. Her father had come to Australia before the Communist victory. Her mother remained in China with her first two sons, unable to come to Australia for some years because of the racist White Australia policy.
After her parents were reunited again the family settled in Brisbane where Lindy Lee was born. For many years she internalized the situation where she was the only Asian child in an all-white neighbourhood.
When she looked at art all the great works by men, so rather than aspiring to be an artist, she became a high school art teacher. In 1975 she graduated from Kelvin Grove CAE, and travelled to London. It was in the art museums of Europe that she saw the work of Artemisia Gentileschi, and realised that it was both possible and reasonable for a woman be an artist. She studied first at the Chelsea College of the Arts, before returning to Australia where she enrolled in a Bachelor of Visual Art in the Sydney College of the Arts. Her works of this period drew heavily on photocopies of reproductions of Renaissance Art, especially Gentilieschi.
Her interest in the nature of photocopies as objects in their own right led to further manipulation of the copied images. This evolved into covering photocopied images in black wax, then scraping them back to reveal the iconic work underneath. In 1985 James Mollison saw an exhibition that included her work and purchased White Sacrament for the National Gallery.
For many years her art was focused exclusively on the European tradition, especially in critiquing Renaissance and Baroque Old Masters. At the same time she developed a close admiration of mid-20th century American painters, especially Mark Rothko and Ad Reinhardt. Her first solo exhibition in 1985 was called Black is Not as Black as All That, a comment that Reinhardt had written in his notebook.
In the early 1990s Lee started to come to terms with her dual heritage, the China of her ancestors and the Australia of her upbringing. Her visits to China led her to a greater understanding of her mother and grandmother and what they had endured in the years before she was born. These concerns began to influence her art.
Examinations of cultural difference led her to the greater questions of the nature of existence and thence to Zen Buddhism. She has said that “My art practice is a function of the interrogation that Zen requires the curious mind to do.”
In 1995 she created the installation No Up, No Down, I Am the Ten Thousand Things for the Art Gallery of New South Wales, a reflection of her understanding that we are all a part of the fragments in the universe. This understanding of self is reflected in her calligraphic work where working with ink evolved into working with paper and fire, and thence to flung fragments of molten bronze.
In 1997 she became a founding member of 4A, the Asian Australian Artists Association and was chair of the Board of Directors from 2003 to 2005. She also served as a Trustee of the Art Gallery of New South Wales for nine years.
After teaching at the Sydney College of the Arts for over twenty years Lee and her husband moved to the Byron Bay hinterland, where she works in her bush studio. In 2018 her sculpture, Life of Stars was installed at the forecourt of the Art Gallery of South Australia as a part of the Adelaide Biennial and in 2020 the Museum of Contemporary Art, Australia, honoured her with a retrospective exhibition Lindy Lee: Moon in a Dew Drop.

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  • Lecturer (ANZSIC code: 810) - Sydney College of the Arts, Sydney University, Sydney, NSW