Victoria Len-Oi Lee paints in her mother tongue

Victoria Lee's An exciting new Caribbean artist made her debut on the London art scene this week. Victoria Len-Oi Lee’s exhibition – “Painting with my Mother-Tongue” – featured vibrant watercolours and photographs of uniquely Trinidadian scenes and landscapes – with a twist.

“I want to change people’s understanding of Trinidad and the Caribbean,” Lee said. “I wanted to depict the way I see Trinidad, the way I see life. There’s a lot happening behind the scenes that people just don’t know about.”

Hence “Broken Beach View”, a photograph of Maracas taken from behind the shattered window-pane of a dilapidated beach house. “Life’s not about relaxation all the time,” Lee said. “There’s destruction, crime, isolation, even racism.”

Victoria Lee's But Lee’s work, on display at the Mango Room in Camden, also emphasises Trinidad’s subtle beauty. “Our beauty is in our rawness, and it’s not always obvious. Sometimes we need to take a really close look to appreciate what we have.”

Lee paints in watercolours, using colour techniques inspired by Trinidadian artist Harry Bryden. “In England, watercolours are seen as very traditional, but I use the medium in a different way, a Caribbean way,” Lee said.

“I want to bring back bright colours. Getting people into colour is getting people into an awareness that life isn’t as bad it seems.”

The 23-year old artist attributes this profound appreciation for life to a near-fatal illness. Two years ago, Lee was diagnosed with Hughes Syndrome, a blood disorder.

“Doctors didn’t know what was wrong with me. I was in and out of several hospitals,” Lee said. “Then specialists from the Hughes Syndrome Foundation examined me and found a clot in the main vein from my stomach to my heart. They rushed me into surgery – and saved my life.”

Lee will donate all proceeds from the show, which runs until July 8th, to the Foundation.

The exhibition was supported by the Trinidad and Tobago High Commission in London and TriniJungleJuice. Rapso artist John Blood and singer Laura Critchley performed on the opening night.

[Cross-posted at the Caribbean Beat Blog]