“In art, like in magic, anything is possible.”
Debbie studied painting at Glasgow School of Art, attracted by its reputation for producing strong figurative painters. Debbie went onto exhibit with the ‘Glasgow Girls’, Boundary Gallery (London) 1995-2002. Following her interest in the ‘Hairy Who’ Chicago Imagists and outsider art she went to study at the Art Institute of Chicago. She was awarded a travel scholarship to Italy by the RSA where she soaked up the imagery from the frescos and at the RCA she felt lucky to meet two of her favourite artists who taught there, Ken Kiff and Paula Rego amongst many more. She spent a year in Cyprus before embarking upon teaching at Grays School of Art and undertaking a Commonwealth Universities research scholarship to India to study traditional arts and crafts. The main focus of her work is drawing, painting, printmaking and animation on themes including storytelling, identity and magic. She worked as an art therapist from 1998 to 2006. The use of art as a therapeutic and expressive medium contributed to her development as an artist.
Debbie worked as an art therapist in the NHS with children and families for a number of years. Behind some of her work is the intention of raising awareness and opening a conversation on the subject of perinatal mental health. She is committed to using art to promote good mental health. She has taken part in projects which help to find the balance between art-making and parenting such as Project After Birth, and the Brood Film Festival with the Digital Institute of Early Parenting. She took part in the Quickening screening at the Nightingale cinema with a group of mothers who animate in Chicago. Her animations have been shown at the CAA conference in New York.
Her work is in the M Wall collection which was exhibited with the Desperate Art Wives at One Paved Court Gallery in 2019 and in Woman House Revisited. She was also invited to write a blog for the Maternal Art Magazine about her experience of making art during lockdown and homeschooling her children. Joining forces with other creative parents has led to increased exposure for parent artists who sometimes get overlooked. maternalart.com/blog/stuck-at-home-by-debbie-lee
Debbie participated in John Hansard Gallery ‘collaborative art and play project’ in 2016 (then collaborated with Jill Laudet from the group, K6 Gallery ‘Cut It Out’, 2019).
Debbie’s work is in collections including: Book of Alice, 1994, British Library; ‘Alice through the Looking Glass’ painting, Grampian Hospital Arts Trust; ‘Levitation’ drawing, Dorset Hospital Arts Collection. She was awarded the Badgers Press prize, 2015 (Royal Society of Painters and Printmakers) for ‘School Leaver’ and has been awarded scholarships to India and Italy. Her first solo exhibition was at Southwark Park Gallery (2002) and more recently Peculiar Realms on themes of magic and hysteria, Devonport Guildhalls Cells, 2019.
In 2020 Debbie Lee was selected to take part in the Platform for Emerging Arts #24 exhibition with the Leyden Gallery in Aldgate. You can view a video by Narae An Jin Ho of the work which she showed below.
I encountered Debbie Lee’s extraordinary solar etchings, paintings and prints at the RWA Galleries in Bristol. Taking up almost a full wall in the downstairs gallery, it felt a little like having drawn aside a heavy velvet curtain and discovered a wonderful circus of the shadows taking place
In Debbie Lee’s conventional family kitchen there is a door that opens onto a different world. Three deep steps down and you enter an Aladdin’s cave. Paintings stacked two three four deep against the walls in which figures float, are constricted or restrained, or vie with each other for power. This is the stuff of dreams or maybe nightmares with a liberal sprinkling of fairytale references, folk and outsider art. The roots of Lee’s current concerns go back a long way and continue to underpin her iconography.
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