Austin Lee’s latest solo exhibition, Constant Joy, revolves around a focused visual language, using the ‘flower’ as a continuous unit. Austin’s flowers are symbols for beauty, growth and kindness. They greet us like a generous flower shower, channelling the sense of joy Austin derives from his practice. On another layer, these flowers are representational reflections of the essence inherent within each of us. Their simplified uniformity emphasizes universal bonds and common experiences. As though lit from within, these works radiate an interior liveliness. For Austin, this exhibition’s resonance is expressed through the words of Japanese poet Matsuo Basho: “There is nothing that you can see that is not a flower; there is nothing you can think that is not the moon”.
According to the teachings of introspective spiritual practices across different cultures (such as Zen and Sufism), the ‘state of joy’ comes from experiencing wholeness: a state created by feeling connected to a source, from which all beings and experiences derive. However, this state of joy is not exclusive to any specific belief or practice. Creative pursuits with introspective nature and continuity are one of the many gateways through which people nourish that state. In Constant Joy I observe a similar exploration of unity, with an extra pinch of yearning for harmony. Through playful repetition, re-arrangement and re-interpretation, the exhibition embodies both an inquisitive and a declarative nature; building multiple expressions of a harmonious whole. This pursuit is reflected both in the compositional structure of the individual works, and in the fluidity with which Austin incorporates different modes of expression such as painting, music, digital animation and sculpture.
Some flowers come together as if to form a structured sentence or a march voiced in unison by a persistent crowd. Other flowers hover towards our environment like notes vibrating at different frequencies. From still paintings that evoke sound and motion, to a song Austin has recorded on his piano, Constant Joy is a celebration of creativity as a continuous renewal strategy in the midst of decay and destruction.