Belem Lett

Belem Lett

Artist Profile

Biography

FAST COLOUR

‘Meadow’ is the kind of word that sways. Read it aloud and you can hear its gentle roll, the lilt that comes from moving between an unstressed and stressed syllable. It’s a softer word than its more concise cousin—‘field’—which, in the absence of syllabic hills, feels flatter, closer to the ground.

Belem Lett’s exhibition at James Makin Gallery undulates in the same way that ‘meadow’ undulates: our eyes rove across circuits, lines, maps, passageways, and spaces within spaces (or perhaps tunnels within tunnels). Riotous layers of colour seem to have escaped from their frames. They spill into the gallery via a collection of sculptures that hug, perch, climb, or contort themselves into an array of shapes. To experience Lett’s exhibition, then, is to travel between depth and flatness, between peaks and troughs, between the certainty of a hard line and the impishness of a curve.

There’s a revelling in the material here, in the way a brush of paint can affix itself to aluminium or in the malleability of pine. Yet what remains central to Lett’s practice is the interplay of colour, space, light and shadow. “I was trying to make the colours frighten each other,” writes Derek Jarman in Chroma, and there is something similar at play in Lett’s choice of palette. We have magenta, emerald, vermillion, absinthe, mauve, heliotrope, russet and tin; we have amber, ginger, fuchsia, acid green, sunflower yellow and a thin ribbon of mandarin. This is not the hippy-ish free-flow of anything goes, but rather, a corralling of the spectrum—an experiment in the fealty and frailty of pigments. Shreds and patches of tones conjoin, cohabitate, argue, run into, celebrate and chafe against one another. I imagine Lett putting his colours through a training session, encouraging them to give it thier all, to not leave anything in the tank. How far can we go together, asks Lett, until we find the edge of your potential?

Some of the pathways I have discovered while being amongst, in, and beside Lett’s colours: that battleships were painted medium grey with a drop of Venetian red, so they could be camouflaged at dusk; that Ludwig Wittgenstein said “a colour shines in its surroundings. Just as eyes only smile in a face”; that the poet James Schuyler compared morning sunlight to a “yellow jelly bean”; and that “the colour we perceive an object to be is precisely the colour it isn’t”, it is “the segment of the spectrum that is being reflected away.” I ask my brother, who has difficulty differentiating between red and green, what it is like to wear lenses that adjust his eyes to a more typical colour spectrum. I didn’t realise the colours you see were so dull (!), he replies. Less vivid. More sombre. (A follow-up question: How would my brother’s eyes apprehend Lett’s Meadow?).

Later, when planting a hodgepodge of flower seedlings, I am seized by the wild thrill of possible chaos. I put periwinkle blue alongside scarlet; I put plum next to lemon, the paladin of the yellows. I plant marigolds and pansies and borage and banana-split daisies. Don’t forget about the whites, advises the experienced gardener. Too much orange, says my mother, would be a mistake. Like Lett, I challenge myself to be bolder, to be riskier. I wait for the colours to reply.

– Naomi Riddle, 2023

In the past year Lett’s practice has seen increasingly wide-spread recognition, as evidenced by an ever-growing waiting-list of eager clients and an astounding number of prize inclusions. In 2022 alone, the artist won both the Omnia Art Prize and the Kangaroo Valley Art Prize; he has also been a finalist in the Sir John Sulman Prize, Waverly Art Prize, Fishers Ghost Prize, Lake Valley Art Prize, Grace Cossington Smith Prize and the Mossman Art Prize.

FAST COLOUR

‘Meadow’ is the kind of word that sways. Read it aloud and you can hear its gentle roll, the lilt that comes from moving between an unstressed and stressed syllable. It’s a softer word than its more concise cousin—‘field’—which, in the absence of syllabic hills, feels flatter, closer to the ground.

Belem Lett’s exhibition at James Makin Gallery undulates in the same way that ‘meadow’ undulates: our eyes rove across circuits, lines, maps, passageways, and spaces within spaces (or perhaps tunnels within tunnels). Riotous layers of colour seem to have escaped from their frames. They spill into the gallery via a collection of sculptures that hug, perch, climb, or contort themselves into an array of shapes. To experience Lett’s exhibition, then, is to travel between depth and flatness, between peaks and troughs, between the certainty of a hard line and the impishness of a curve.

There’s a revelling in the material here, in the way a brush of paint can affix itself to aluminium or in the malleability of pine. Yet what remains central to Lett’s practice is the interplay of colour, space, light and shadow. “I was trying to make the colours frighten each other,” writes Derek Jarman in Chroma, and there is something similar at play in Lett’s choice of palette. We have magenta, emerald, vermillion, absinthe, mauve, heliotrope, russet and tin; we have amber, ginger, fuchsia, acid green, sunflower yellow and a thin ribbon of mandarin. This is not the hippy-ish free-flow of anything goes, but rather, a corralling of the spectrum—an experiment in the fealty and frailty of pigments. Shreds and patches of tones conjoin, cohabitate, argue, run into, celebrate and chafe against one another. I imagine Lett putting his colours through a training session, encouraging them to give it thier all, to not leave anything in the tank. How far can we go together, asks Lett, until we find the edge of your potential?

Some of the pathways I have discovered while being amongst, in, and beside Lett’s colours: that battleships were painted medium grey with a drop of Venetian red, so they could be camouflaged at dusk; that Ludwig Wittgenstein said “a colour shines in its surroundings. Just as eyes only smile in a face”; that the poet James Schuyler compared morning sunlight to a “yellow jelly bean”; and that “the colour we perceive an object to be is precisely the colour it isn’t”, it is “the segment of the spectrum that is being reflected away.” I ask my brother, who has difficulty differentiating between red and green, what it is like to wear lenses that adjust his eyes to a more typical colour spectrum. I didn’t realise the colours you see were so dull (!), he replies. Less vivid. More sombre. (A follow-up question: How would my brother’s eyes apprehend Lett’s Meadow?).

Later, when planting a hodgepodge of flower seedlings, I am seized by the wild thrill of possible chaos. I put periwinkle blue alongside scarlet; I put plum next to lemon, the paladin of the yellows. I plant marigolds and pansies and borage and banana-split daisies. Don’t forget about the whites, advises the experienced gardener. Too much orange, says my mother, would be a mistake. Like Lett, I challenge myself to be bolder, to be riskier. I wait for the colours to reply.

– Naomi Riddle, 2023

In the past year Lett’s practice has seen increasingly wide-spread recognition, as evidenced by an ever-growing waiting-list of eager clients and an astounding number of prize inclusions. In 2022 alone, the artist won both the Omnia Art Prize and the Kangaroo Valley Art Prize; he has also been a finalist in the Sir John Sulman Prize, Waverly Art Prize, Fishers Ghost Prize, Lake Valley Art Prize, Grace Cossington Smith Prize and the Mossman Art Prize.

SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS
2022 Limbo, Edwina Corlette Gallery, Brisbane
2021 Sundowner, James Makin Gallery, Melbourne
2020 Smoke Screen, Edwina Corlette Gallery, Brisbane
2019 Grotto, Ideas Platform, Artspace, Sydney
2019 Personal Transporter (Self Balancing), James Makin Gallery,
Melbourne
2018 Pipe Dream, Wellington St Projects, Sydney
2016 Aviary, Gallery 9, Sydney
2016 Paradise Lost, Edwina Corlette Gallery, Brisbane
2015 Tunnel Vision, Gallery 9, Sydney
2014 There Be Monsters, Edwina Corlette Gallery, Brisbane
2014 Island Fever, Gallery 9, Sydney
2013 Fault Lines, Edwina Corlette Gallery, Brisbane
2013 Far From Nowhere, Gallery 9, Sydney
2013 Something Crashed Into The Earth Last Night, Firstdraft Gallery,
Sydney
2012 Everywhere For Going, MOP projects, Sydney
2011 Two Fold, Cite Internationale des Arts, Paris

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
2022 Grace Cossington Smieth Art Prize, Grace Cossington Smith Gallery,
Wahroonga
2022 Finalist exhibition, Hazelhurst Work on Paper Prize, Hazelhurst Regional
Gallery, Gymea
2021 Summer New, James Makin Gallery, Melbourne
2021 Chapter Three, James Makin Gallery, Melbourne
2021 Summer group show, McLeavey Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand
2020 Collector space, Curated by Rowena Talacko for Artmonth, Shapiro
Annex
2020 Rocococolonial, Curated by Gary Carsley, Lismore Regional Art
Gallery
2020 Summer New, James Makin Gallery, Melbourme
2019 Rocococolonial, Curated by Gary Carsley at Bathurst Regional Art
Gallery
2019 Rocococolonial, Hazelhurst Regional Gallery
2019 Brett Whiteley Travelling Art Scholarship 20 year anniversary
exhibition, SH Ervin Gallery, Sydney.
2019 Finalist exhibition – Glover Prize, Falls Park Pavillion, Evansdale,
Tasmania
2018 Sunshine Coast Art Prize, (finalist) Coloundra Regional Gallery
2018 Group Exhibition, Edwina Corlette Gallery, Pop up exhibition
Melbourne
2018 Spring 1883, Fort Delta Group presentation, Hotel Windsor
Melbourne
2018 Group 10 year Anniversary Exhibition, Edwina Corlette Gallery,
Brisbane
2018 Home ground advantage, Group show, The Graham Green in
Dulwich Hill (Curated by Chris Dolman & Kate Beckingham)
2018 Open Eye Signal, Fort Delta Melbourne
2017 Solo presentation, Sydney Contemporary Art Fair, Edwina Corlette
Gallery
2017 New work, Den Fair, Gallery 9 (Sydney) in Melbourne
2016 Spring 1883, The Hotel Windsor (Melbourne) with Gallery 9, Sydney
2016 Firstdraft Fundraiser, Firstdraft Gallery, Sydney
2016 So Fresh, (group show), Wellington St Projects, Sydney
2015 Firstdraft Fundraiser, Firstdraft Gallery, Sydney
2015 North, Northern Centre for Contemporary Art, Darwin
2015 Bang Bang (with Genevieve Reynolds), Chasm Gallery, New York,
USA
2015 Friends With Benefits, Twenty Thirty Seven, Sydney
2014 Sydney Painting Now, (group show) Gallery Pompom/Mop Projects,
Sydney
2013 Fishers Ghost Art Award, Campbelltown Regional Gallery
2013 Artmonth Speed Dating Finalists exhibiiton, curated by Sebastian
Goldspink, Depot II Gallery, Sydney
2013 Firstdraft Annual Auction, Firstdraft Gallery, Sydney
2013 Colour Forms, Curated by Catherine Benz, Delmar Gallery, Sydney
2013 Othering (realities in landscape), Sawtooth ARI, Launceston
2013 Othering, One night event, Digital Art Centre, Taipei, Taiwan
2013 Othering (realities in landscape), Rear View, Melbourne
2013 Rumble, Wellington St Projects, Sydney
2012 Shelf Life, Delmar Gallery, Sydney
2012 Fishers Ghost Art prize, finalist exhibition, Campbeltown Regional Gallery
2012 Tim Olsen drawing prize, finalist exhibition, Kudos Gallery, Sydney
2011 Group Show, Gallery 9, Sydney
2011 Second Nature, group show, The Papermill Gallery, Sydney
2010 Brett Whiteley Scholarship, winning work, Brett Whiteley Studio,
Sydney
2010 Emerging Artist Award, finalist show Kudos Gallery, Sydney
2008 Jenny Birt Prize, group show, COFA Space Gallery, Sydney
2008 Halfway House, Honours group show, COFA Space Gallery, Sydney
2008 Brett Whiteley Scholarship, Finalist show, Brett Whiteley Studio,
Sydney

AWARDS/GRANTS/RESIDENCIES
2022 Sir John Sulman Prize, AGNSW, finalist
2022 Omnia Art Prize, Winner
2022 Waverly Art Prize, finalist
2022 Blake Art Prize, Casula Powerhouse, Sydney, Finalist
2021 Hazelhurst Art on Paper Award, Gymea, Finalist
2021 Grace Cossington Smith Art Prize, Grace Cossington Smith Gallery, Finalist
2021 Waverly Art Prize, Waverly Art School, Sydney, Finalist
2021 Bayside Acquisitive Art Prize, Bayside Gallery, Melbourne, Finalist
2020 Glover prize, Finalist exhibition, Tasmania
2019 Hazelhurst Art on Paper Award, Early Career Artist Prize, Hazelhurst
Arts Centre, Winner
2019 Arthur Guy Memorial Prize, Bendigo Art Gallery, Finalist
2019 Glover Prize, Falls Park Pavillion, Evansdale Tasmania, Finalist
2018 Fishers Ghost Art Award, Campbelltown Regional Gallery, Finalist
2018 Sunshine Coast Art Award, Coloundra Regional Gallery, Finalist
2018 Paddington Art Prize, Cicada press prize
2017 Elaine Birmingham National Watercolour Prize, QCA, Highly
Commended
2016 Paddington Art Prize, Highly Commended
2016 Sunshine Coast Art Award, Coloundra Regional Gallery, Finalist
2016 Chippendale New World Art Prize, Finalist
2015 Fishers Ghost Art Award, Finalist
2014 NAB Emerging Artist Award, Finalist
2013 Fishers Ghost Art Award, Campbelltown Regional Gallery
2012 Tim Olsen drawing prize, Highly Commended
2012 Fishers Ghost Art Award, Campbelltown Regional Gallery, Finalist
(Drawing)
2011 Cite Internationale des Arts, Residency, AGNSW studio, Paris,
France
2011 COFA travel grant, College of Fine Arts, UNSW
2010 Brett Whiteley Traveling Art Scholarship, Winner
2010 Kudos Emerging Artist Award, Finalist
2010 Australian Postgraduate Award (APA) University of NSW (COFA)
2009 Brett Whiteley Traveling Art Scholarship, Finalist
2008 Brett Whitely Traveling Art Scholarship, Finalist

ARTWORKS

  • These Peaks Watch Over YouBelem Lett These Peaks Watch Over You 2022 oil, clear primer on brushed aluminium composite panel 150 x 120 cm $9,700.00 ENQUIRE →
  • MeadowBelem Lett Meadow 2022 oil, gesso, marble dust on aluminium composite panel 150 x 220 cm

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  • Uncommon GroundBelem Lett Uncommon Ground 2022 acrylic, gesso, aluminium composite panel, silicone, pine, screws, clear satin varnish 74 x 82 x 102 cm $8,000.00 ENQUIRE →
  • Electric DreamsBelem Lett Electric Dreams 2021 oil on aluminium composite panel 152 x 150 cm $10,000.00 ENQUIRE →

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Artist Name

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