Bovey Lee’s Paper Art Pays Homage to Ancient Chinese Practices

One could say Bovey Lee was born into art. Born in Hong Kong, she began practicing Chinese calligraphy at the age of ten, moving on to study painting and drawing in her formative years, and then completing her BA degree in Fine Arts at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Having moved to the US in 1993, she earned her first Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of California at Berkeley. Subsequently, she earned a second MFA in Digital Arts at Pratt Institute in New York.

Currently based in LA, these past decades have seen Lee focusing on paper cut art. Using a knife as a drawing tool, she creates her work on Xuan (rice) paper, which in turn reflects her Chinese heritage and those early encounters with art-making, which began with Chinese calligraphy, painting, and drawing.

“Rice paper is particularly special to me because it’s the first art material I used since age 10 when I practiced Chinese calligraphy and landscape painting,” she relayed once in an interview with the Chinese Cultural Studies Center. “Chinese invented paper so I also feel a sense of cultural significance and relevance in using it in my work.”

“My cut paper explores the tension and contradiction between our obsession with urbanism and desire for nature,” she further explains on her website. “My cut paper practice is also a nod to my ancestral roots, and is very much informed by traditional Chinese paper cutting.”

According to Lee, historically, paper cutting was a pastime done communally by generations of women in China. The works, which were often created in multiples at the same time, responded to the women’s everyday lives and often depicted images of farm and village life.