Haptic Vision: Rosa Lee and Jo Bruton

20 Aug-1 Oct 2022


Rosa Lee was born in 1957, in Hong Kong, but moved to the UK at a very early age with her parents.

A student at the Royal College of Art in the late 80s, studying alongside Tracey Emin, Lee was heavily inspired by the great British artist Bridget Riley. Her early works exhibit a strong interest in wave-like forms, creating optical illusions on the canvas through heavily layered skeins of paints. Drawings and sketches in her sketchbooks show an interest in decorative forms and ordered grids, and a dual fascination with calligraphy and organic geometry. 

Very few Hong Kong artists were painting in the UK at the time, especially abstract paintings of this scale and aesthetic - the twisted braided forms, ridge-like on the painting. Loosely described as a descendant of the Pattern & Decoration movement, her abstract paintings are organic in form, feeling almost alive.

She was a student at Brighton Polytechnic, 1982–3, St Martin’s School of Art, 1983–6, and Royal College of Art, 1986–8, graduating with a MA Painting in 1988, and a recipient of the prestigious John Moore painting prize just a year later in ’89. She exhibited extensively throughout the '90s and 00’s, including in museum shows at the Whitechapel, London; the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool; and Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge. Her death in 2009 at the age of 52 from cancer, cut short a burgeoning career. Lee’s work is held in various public collections, including The New Hall Art Collection, University of Cambridge, UK; Victoria Gallery and Museum, University of Liverpool, UK; Maclaurin Art Gallery, Scotland, UK; and the Contemporary Art Society, UK, amongst others.