Interview with Painter and Artistic Polymath David Lee

David Lee is an artistic polymath. With Turner-esque cloud formations and storms, clever chess Op Art, a symbolic “Time and Motion” genre, and anatomical art, Lee covers all the bases of the human imagination. Lee rejects boundaries of conventional artistic licence, and instead of following one particular path, paints as he chooses. Free from the shackles of categorisation, he creates art which is a completely true reflection of his thoughts. We speak with the artist about his practice.

Certain paintings depict turbulent , almost biblical natural disasters. What is your motivation in producing these images?
I am seldom inspired by peaceful bucolic scenes with gentle pastoral shepherds and shepherdesses! Perhaps these images represent a world spiralling out of control in the aftermath of climate-change, an asteroid impact, or in the wake of a devastating earthquake – perhaps they represent the extremes of human emotion – especially anger and rage. Possible they are a late reaction to the overwhelming emotional response I had felt as a boy when reading the Biblical stories of flood and apocalypse, or when viewing for the first time several great paintings by Turner in a book on Weather in Art that I had serendipitously discovered in the local library, but most of all they refer to the classic, tragic imagery of The Raft of the Medusa by Gericault (a symbol if ever I saw one of mankind at the mercy of the enraged elements).

Would you say that an interest in science and mathematics plays a role in the often patterned, regimented images you produce?
Strangely enough I was not particularly interested in science and mathematics at school and even got left behind a little through my own inattention in class, and so it was only through discovering MC Escher and others that I eventually realised the power of geometry when applied to art through the imagination. By just relaxing and freeing the mind to play around with a few basic rules of perspective and vanishing points, I was eventually able to access a world that was strictly logical and rational in opposition to my usual free-association and playful doodling. With illusionary three dimensional depths on a two dimensional surface, this super-realistic world of infinite and fascinating perspectives can sometimes also have the physical effect of causing confusion and indecision as the viewer attempts endlessly to decide between ambiguous patterns and shapes. This creates movement that does not exist in reality; and so a fascinating subject all in with endless possibilities.

There appears to be a Surreal element to a lot of your work. What are your primary inspirations?
Some modern digital work and film special-effects and state-of-the-art photography. Also from the past: Dali, Max Ernst, Miro – the usual suspects. A lot of my own imagery materialises on the borderline where playful doodling makes a connection to the unconscious mind – where both stream-of-conscious, meaningless chattering and terrifying nightmares are wrought, and where superstitions and atavistic fears exist side by side with the shapes of childhood fears.

How do you feel about the viewer attaching meaning to your work; is it intended to be open-ended?
Although a title is very important to me in either giving guidance and stimulus to an existing piece of work, or in being the catalyst for something new by setting off a chain of thoughts and images the moment I first conceive of it, I also love to leave the ultimate meaning of my pictures open-ended so that the viewer can partake in the experience and bring his or her own imagination to work on the final interpretation.

View more of David Lee’s work at

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1. Flannan Isle, acrylic on textured water-colour paper. Courtesy of the artist.
2. Land Of The Midnight Sun, acrylic wash. Courtesy of the artist.