Correspondence through Art: Claire Lee & Régis Gonzalez

Régis Gonzalez; Enter the Void – Correspondence with Claire Lee (2016, ink on paper); Art Central 2016 (Mur Nomade)

The artwork presented on this page is a correspondence project between Claire Lee (a Hong Kong artist), and Régis Gonzalez (a French artist living in St. Etienne). The two artists sent each other a total of eight artworks—including texts, drawings, photographs and mixed media works—over the course of two years (2014-2016), The project was a dialogue that was meant to allow them to express their inner thoughts and feelings. Many of the works in the correspondence evoke feelings of pressure or alienation.

The project was initiated by Amandine Hervey, the curator at the Mur Nomade gallery in Hong Kong. The original idea was that the artists would ONLY be able to communicate with one another through their art work. People being people, however, the two artists did start attaching written explanations to their art and Régis even visited Hong Kong.

People have a desire to be understood as well as to understand, so perhaps communicating solely through art would have been frustrating. This kind of correspondence-via-art is a fascinating idea for an art project though.

The Correspondence

The entire correspondence was laid out on a table at Art Central 2016. The correspondence is in order; the first artwork is at top of the following photo.

Claire Lee & Régis Gonzalez; Correpondence (2014-2016); Art Central 2016 (Mur Nomade)

Régis initiated the art-dialogue with this painting of a woman kneeling by a river as a man (or a man’s body) floats past. That is a pretty intense way to start a conversation!

Régis Gonzalez; Debute (‘Start’) (oil paint, pencils, India ink)

Claire responded equally intensely  by building a tiny wooden box with a drawer containing, a poem, a letter, and a paper heart on top of drawings of…er…dead flies.

Claire Lee; Dead Flies and Awakening Heart (Watercolour, coloured pencils, chalk and acrylic on paper, wood)
Claire Lee; Dead Flies and Awakening Heart (detail view)

The letter begins:

Dear Régis, thank you for your painting, when I saw the man floating on the river it instantly reminds me of Nick Cave’s ‘Where the Wild Rose Grows’.

Here is the Nick Cave song that Claire is referring to:

Claire continues the letter by briefly introducing the accompanying poem, which is from her book entitled Ritual. Here is that poem:

Drawer

by Claire Lee

In the middle of an abandoned cloister
A divine light irradiates the dust
A lonely hermit stares at an old desk

Religion searches for a corner to rest
He presses lightly on a huntress’ leaden breath
Spider is spinning a web at a dark corner
Candlelight whispers to tempt chaos

White smoke sneaks through the wet lips of a drawer
Old hermit remembers a summer story.

It was a humid summer
Huntress put into a drawer a heart saved from mire
Blood and tears seeped deep into the wood
Prey’s whimpering cries
Sadistic insects

That day a ferocious huntress and tigress glared at each other
In a sudden they found comfort in one another
She saves its life by digging out its heart
Then laid three white hairs on the carcass

Blood-drenched drawer is filled with eyes of desire
It is not love they hunger for but an emptiness of tempting fire

A black widow spinning a moth
His rough hand sweeps aside the heavy dust of memories
Before flame extinguishes
he sits and starts to write his first and only love letter
Then seals it and puts it inside the drawer

Tigress’s heart stops beating
It become the first Sabbath for the wild ones

Régis replied with a photo and short note:

Régis Gonzalez; The Reader (digital print); Art Central 2016

The letter reads:

I took this picture a night I couldn’t sleep. I was in a very small village in north of France. The village was empty of people. But close to 5.30 am, there was this guy. He never saw me taking the picture.

I thought I was alone but he was there
He thought he was alone but I was there.

As you send me the poem “Drawer” I found you a reader, kind of extension of myself at this moment.    

Let’s skip ahead a year (sorry, I didn’t get pictures of all the works).

Régis visited Hong Kong, which tends to be a pretty hot place, and people often like to keep the air-conditioning on full blast. As a result, you are often either too hot or too cold. In this picture, Régis imagines himself as a faceless humanoid air-conditioner: sometimes warm, sometimes cold, but never the perfect temperature.

Régis Gonzalez; (top) I feel like an air con machine cold or warm but never find the right temperature & (bottom) Untitled

The final artwork was from Claire. Entitled Missing Face, the painting shows a mask, or is it a disembodied face? Or are the two things—mask and face—one and the same?

Claire Lee; The Missing Face (Pigmented India Ink on acid-free archival clay-coated panel)

Once the project was finished, the works were displayed together and then sold separately. I would view the dialogue as a single work of art, so, to me, selling each piece independently seemed like a kind of ‘break up’—buyers would only be purchasing fragments of a single dialogue. Am I being too idealistic?

Mini-bio: Hong Kong artist Claire Lee was born in the territory in 1976. Her original training was in graphic design, but she is primarily is a visual artist (working with drawing, painting and mixed media) and poet. She is based in in Hong Kong and the United Kingdom.

Mini-bio: French artist Régis Gonzalez was born in 1976 and studied Fine Art. He is based in St. Etienne and his artwork includes drawings, paintings and mixed media works.


Go Further

This section includes discussion questions, an art challenge and links to online photo galleries and websites.

Online Galleries

Higher resolution images (e.g. 2048 x 1365) can be viewed online at:

Artist Websites

Three Questions

  1. Do you see a common theme running through the whole dialogue? What is that theme?
  2. What do you think of the art correspondence idea?
  3. How do you think the artists inspired each other? Do you notice, for example, something in one artist’s work that is an extension of or response to the other artist’s work?

Art Challenge

You should be able to guess the challenge for this article! Engage in an art dialogue with another person (but try to follow the rule—only communicate via the actual artwork).


~ text and photos by longzijun

artjouer

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