Bovey Lee: Connecting History and Technology on Paper

Jessica Ransom

Hong Kong born, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania based artist Bovey Lee created her first cut paper artwork in 2005, although she has been practicing Chinese calligraphy since she was ten years old and drawing and painting since youth. Jessica Ransom describes her incredibly intricate, lace like paper cuts, which make reference to art history, architecture and topical subjects while remaining heavily influenced by her artistic background.

Though Bovey Lee’s current medium is paper cutting, the artist has progressed through many styles and technologies in more than 20 years as a practicing artist. She earned her BA in Fine Arts at the Chinese University of Hong Kong before moving to the United States to continue her studies. Lee’s work is littered with references to both art history and architecture, but also employs cutting edge computer technology. Paper is the humble medium that Lee elevates to new heights and sets free as in Falling Water (2010) where the more than four foot long sheets of intricately cut paper hang from rods so that they move with the slightest breeze. The first in this series of five works is intricately cut and resembles the most heavily embroidered lace. Each successive work becomes lighter and lighter as if the waterfall is ceasing. The final work appears as delicate as raindrops briefly captured on a pane of glass. Unlike traditional Chinese papercuts, which are entombed on a board, Lee often captures her work, cut from rice paper laid on silk, between glass so that the resulting shadow offers another dimension to the piece.

Bovey Lee’s work is rooted in her traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy training combined with modern computer technology and her own innovations. In one of her earliest group shows, Lee presented a traditional Chinese ink wash painting entitled Landscape (1989). When considered next to recent works such as Lifting Clouds (2012) the influence of her traditional training is immediately recognisable in the swirling clouds reminiscent of the washed images of the famous mountains in Guilin.

In order to fully appreciate the complexity of Bovey Lee’s creations, the viewer should consider not only her earliest Chinese watercolors, but also the work on her now defunct website Body Diaspora (1999-2000) and her series Body Garden (1998-2000) in which she morphs images of her own body parts into digital still lifes. In these earlier works, Lee deconstructs the body and then, using her computer, reconstructs fingers, breasts, and eyeballs as flowers, fruit, and landscapes. In Body Gardens–Lemons (2000), for example, her breasts become plump, juicy lemons rolling across a print as velvety and deeply shadowed as an old master still life.

Though traditional paper cutters often create multiples of the same image, Lee works like a painter and creates singular creations. After drafting her idea Lee, who obtained an MFA in computer graphics from the Pratt Institute in 2000, carefully collages together computer images to create the fantastical story she has imagined. Once she achieves her preferred image, she prints the photo to use as a guide for her paper cutting. Lee’s tools are simple, Chinese xuan paper backed with silk and an X-acto knife. Lee has been using rice paper since as a child in Hong Kong she sat practicing her calligraphy. The composition and skill of her paper cuts is incredibly detailed and intricate, and, perhaps because of her use of computer technology to create her images, they have a somewhat digital aesthetic. The Same Boat (2011) is a perfect example of Lee’s ability to morph images into a coherent, but also keenly observed and penetrating, narrative. In this work the bamboo clad skyscrapers constantly evolving in the Hong Kong skyline vie for space with highway overpasses as well as ancient villages and temples. Ironically, all of the images are crammed into the form of a carefully constructed model ship that sits delicately atop an ornate stand. At first sight Bovey Lee’s papercuts are delicate creations of beauty. Upon closer examination, they beg their viewer to consider darker narratives.
Through her own innovations to the art of paper cutting, Bovey Lee is breathing new life into a fading art form. She is perhaps a mirror of China, her native country, which is constantly growing and changing in an effort to remain relevant on the world stage.
By Jessica Ransom

landscape with balloons floating in the air

KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?

Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

X
Edit article