Lee Yi – Dissimilar Lake Pigments (Rottenman Editions, 2018)

My mum’s been quilting for about 2 years now, and she’s made quite a few pieces in that time: I’m partially underneath one of them now in fact, an earlier work of simple, gradated colour blocks. I’ve been grateful for it, not just because it’s helped keep myself and others surprisingly warm, but also because of the thought, care and effort that went into making it. This was a product of deliberation and invested hours in the evening, of love.

I see, or rather hear, that creative, constructive process in Dissimilar Lake Pigments, of parts and pieces integrating into a careful whole as a result of tender hands and wandering thoughts. The purpose of this craftwork? In as much as anything else, distraction, diversion. The need to take one’s mind elsewhere, pour thought and emotion into some physical outlet. Opener “Veiled Points” makes that clear immediately, a dense initiation filled with humming drones, an odd sensation of billowing energy spilling out over us like some smothering gas extinguishing a flame.

Sophomore “Lake Pigments” arrives at realisation, and begins to transition into safety and healing as it fills itself with distressed guitar bleeding out of the hiss. Thoughts begin to manifest into action with “Rag”, a fringe Slowcore piece of easygoing guitar chords smudged out, their bassy and luxurious delivery floating on a bed of foamy cassette static. It bobs languidly, fabric rising and falling in measured unravelings, scraps fed contentedly into their new warm home as part of something new and valuable.

Yet they can be born from imperfection and imprecision, as “Clumsy Hands” gently evokes. Winnowing strings flutter and oscillate in drone suspension, trembling and unsteady movements that worry endlessly about upsetting the already crystalline intentions instilled, those careful sparkling seeds of synth refracting care and consideration.

Closing “Safety Pins” recalls these idiosyncrasies in the records last moments, though now the tremulous sound has all but vanished. Instead it’s filled with uncertainty, the finished product all but complete, held together by a scattering of pins but ready to be permanised. Huge smeared drones drift out, turning this way and that, inspecting and scrutinising as only the hands and eyes of the artist will do, hidden from the shimmering light shards of value and intent that remain all but unseen by the creator.

These are their secret stories and worries, tucked away in the folds and creases and stitching is the labour of love hidden in plain sight, right alongside the unknowable emotional origin story behind each quilt. In some ways these details are irrelevant, lost on the unaware recipient, and yet they are also everything.