Elizabeth Gabrielle Lee

Were you a flower to tuck away?


Were you a flower to tuck away?


I grew up on a diet of Disney and Carl’s Jr. Apart from having Chinese dishes at home, the rest of my childhood was spent consuming the West: DK encyclopaedias, McDonald’s drive throughs, and Enid Blyton. I grew up wanting to emulate the fair-skinned lady on TV; it wasn’t just her appearance I was after—her lifestyle inhabited my subconscious. I rejected my Peranakan heritage almost completely in my teenage years—it was too familiar to be desired, and it just wasn’t ‘exotic’ enough. A decade later and here I am, stringing remains together, retrieving forgotten memorabilia from what feels like a past life. Reactivating the photographs of my grandmother’s funeral, I attempt to bridge the time-space gap with that of my own images. Hours spent threading chrysanthemums (a Chinese symbol of loss and healing) developed into a journey of contemplation on a salvaged heritage—imagined or not.  

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Additional Info

Installation: 98 nylon strands of dried white chrysanthemum, six black and white carbon archival prints on Awagami washi paper, six C type gloss prints in dark oak frames.

UMBRA MA Photography Show // London College of Communication // Curated by Val Williams and David Mollins // 14–18 November 2018

'Photographers have been known as shadow catchers: those that dwell at the edge of the frame, taming the light. A life spent domesticating spectral patterns of matter as they flow and reform. An image is a mass of moving parts. There is nothing static here, only relative scales of time and motion. Liquid traces of the world are temporarily contained and slowed to a fraction of a second. Or set in space to reorganise the flow of time. The complexity of space-time is compressed into a surface that troubles scholars.

Behind each surface, a complex series of chemical negotiations. Cosmic interactions make mundane suburbs; Supernovas are visible in blades of grass. The day is owned by a mass of hot plasma that rises overhead without the slightest surprise. Light bends as it moves from one substance to another: this refraction is visible in the twinkling of stars, the glinting of crystal, the way water abstracts the bodies within it.

What you see here is a studied effect: years of careful construction that assume an immediate form. What remains unseen is the pure physical effort of holding and honing an idea that it might become seemingly effortless and distilled. Look! The light is already fading. Pixel and grain dance, dislodging themselves from sight. Objects are redrawn in halftone.

Everything is just beginning.' 

— Exhibition foreword by Lee Mckinnon

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