Fiona Lee

Winner 2009

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Artist Statement

Fiona Lee uses the medium of photography to not only document her travels but also to explore the themes that have been a running constant in her art practice. These themes are shelter and place: particularly the shape and materiality of shelter and connections to community and a sense of place. As a consequence of travelling, her explorations have also allowed her to delve deeper into the concepts of the duality of detachment and non-attachment, the desire to have and an aversion to having, as these present themselves in her everyday life.


Art Career Beginnings

My tertiary art studies began in 2000 when I enrolled in the Advanced Diploma of Fine Art at Newcastle Art School. I continued on to complete a Bachelor of Fine Art (Honours) at Newcastle University in 2010. At the time of receiving the Jennie Thomas Travelling Art Scholarship in 2009, midway through my Honours year at Newcastle University, my studies had been focused on repetition and place. This was evident both visually and conceptually in my work through the use of baked and sun dried bricks. It was my interest in exploring the notion of place that led to explorations into my personal identity in relation to bricks as they are one of the oldest building materials in the world and their history begins at the dawn of civilization. It is this history that interests me, particularly typography on bricks, as it enables me to unearth a subterranean history and archaeology of an industrial history that I can, at least on an affective level, feel nostalgic for.

My Jennie Thomas Travelling Arts Scholarship Experience

Since receiving the Jennie Thomas Travelling Art Scholarship in 2009 I have been on a continuous journey of research and development, gathering global inspiration from many states of Australia, Japan, South East Asia and Canada.

I had studied art in an institutional context for over 8 years and receiving the Jennie Thomas Traveling Arts Scholarship gave me the means and impetus to explore first hand the connection between art, community, identity and place which I felt that I had the duty to explore. Throughout my studies my desire had been cemented to explore contexts where art and culture serve a purpose greater than that of aesthetic value, one where the genuine capacity to create positive social change is realised.

I've travelled widely since winning this scholarship. One of the most inspirational places I visited was Burma, now called Myanmar. It's place of great political upheaval and change. I had arranged to teach English in Mandalay while I explored the community, culture and met the people. But  because of the 2010 elections, I was unable to get the required business visa. After many attempts, I finally went to the Thai/Burmese border at Mae Sot and taught at a Burmese arts based youth organisation. I learned so match about their country and culture, made life long friends and shared some of my culture and country with them

After my 3 month teaching stint was complete, I spent time in the hill country of the Shan State in Kyaukme and Hsipaw getting to know the generous and wonderful people there and learning of their community, culture and art. It was a wonderful experience. 

Digital Photographic Collage Series (2013)

Travelling in South East Asia

Street art, Kuala Lumpur. The picture depicts my favourite fruit- rambutan!

Stencil making, Mae Sot (2011)

Generation Wave Mural, Thailand (2011). Fiona lived in the Generation Wave Headquarters while she taught in Thialand.

Teaching in Laos

Beyond The Scholarship

I am temporarily residing in Banff, located in the Rocky Mountains in Canada’s oldest National Park. It is here that am basing my explorations into my identity and connection with the country of my birth. I have been actively involved in the community through the Banff Community Coffee House events in an organisational capacity. This is a grassroots operation, run by the passion and desire of talented people who are contributing and connecting to community. The Banff Community Coffee Houses provide a unique and refined space for local and traveling musicians and artists to share their talent whilst providing a noncommercial cultural space where people can communicate and connect.

During my time in Banff I have also been fortunate enough to regularly attend guest artist and curator lectures, exhibitions, film screenings and literary events at the globally respected Banff Centre. This facility is deemed to be the largest arts and creativity incubator on the planet and has allowed me access to domestic and international inspiration and dialogue in a mountain setting.

My intention for the coming years is to continue travelling to India, Europe, South and Central America and beyond, to be informed of the places I visit and to contribute to any community I am part of in a mutually beneficial way. I would also like to continue studying community development and to work within this field.

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JAAM: Japan Australia Art Musings (2010)

The JAAM Project is an artist-in-residence program between Australia and Japan, which took place at Australia House in 2010. 

For these works Fiona drew her influence from the unique melange of rural architecture evident in Urada. The Juxtaposition of bold geometry and sensitive tradition in local and traditional architecture inspired her to create these two works; with the continuous thematic thread being the notion of shelter.  

Elements (brick wall) consisted of 82 hand molded, sun dried earthen blocks, used to brick in an internally illuninated alcove in Australia house. Made from earth, rice and corn husks collected from the local area, the blocks consciously incorporated elements that strongly signify the place of Urada.

Shelter Series comprised of three minimal, geometric assemblages of re-purposed metal, wood and plastic. These materials came imbued with their own history, a history of Urada. 

Together, these works explore materiality in rural Japanese architecture in relationship to basic concepts of housing design and construction. 

Element (brick wall).
Installation made from local clay, loam, corn and rice hunks, water, gravel, sand and lights.

             Shelter Series. Re-purposed metal, plastic and wood.

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