Molonglo artist-in-residence, Lee Grant

Canberra, Australia (2012 - Present)

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Lee Grant is a documentary photographer known for her use of portraiture to narrate and reveal aspects of belonging, community and identity (often in the context of Australian suburbia). Her work has been exhibited and collected nationally and internationally (including at various Photo Festivals such as Photoville in New York and Pingyao in China as well as established cultural institutions such as the National Portrait Gallery, Canberra, the Lee_Grant_Dan_Belco_Pride-02_wAustralian Centre for Photography, Sydney and The Printspace, London). She has published two monographs titled Belco Pride (2012),1 a book about Canberra’s northernmost suburbs and The Five Happinesses (2015),2 a visual meditation of an anciLee_Grant_Oriental_dinner-01_went Chinese life philosophy, set against the backdrop of modern Beijing.

Lee Grant_Nishi_Construction_14-(1)_wLee Grant_machine-2_wLee Grant_Nishi_Construction_98_wAs artist-in-residence Lee wanders NewActon,3 its surrounds and the broader world documenting how they unfold. Her visual approach has Lee Grant_WALLS-3_wLee Grant_Nishi_Construction_86_whelped us narrate and reveal our own story: the concrete walls while Nishi4 was being constructed, the tiler who carefully laid Hotel Hotel’s mosaic walls, Lee Grant_Dermot_Beekeeper_03_wthe farmers who supplies their produce to Monster kitchen and bar and of course, the eccentric locals, visitors and guests that create and contribute to this flourishing community.

Project NameMolonglo artist-in-resident
Project TypeArtist-in-residence
Project TeamMolonglo Group, Lee Grant
ScopeVisual documentary on Molonglo Group’s various adventures and their various friends and co-conspirators
StatusOngoing

“Belco’s a hole…but it’s our hole” – Belco Pride

Belco Pride is a series of images that explores how belonging, connection and identity can emerge from a specific place. In this instance, the place is “Belco,” the local name for Belconnen, the 25th northernmost suburbs of Canberra. Lee’s process of returning home was a cathartic experience in which she reconciled her perception of place with its banal and particular reality. Within this body of work Lee seeks to reveal the intricacies of living in suburbs that may be dismissed by many but cherished by some. A place where its residents take ownership of where they are from, a place that can engender a sense of pride so strong, it is literally written onto the body.

“According to traditional Chinese thought, the most important goals in life are the five happinesses – good luck, prosperity, longevity, happiness and wealth. These lie at the heart of all aspects of Chinese life and culture….” – Lee Grant

In late 2013, Lee Grant was commissioned by BTV and Wildbear Productions to spend three chilly weeks in Beijing. Her brief was to discover the city through the lens of her camera. Her arresting and at times lonely depictions of Beijing and its people present an insightful outsider’s view of a complex and challenging city, the results of which are poetically brought together in her second monograph The Five Happinesses.

NewActon is a precinct on the edge of Canberra’s city centre that Molonglo Group is progressively restoring. It is built on the heritage grounds of Acton House, a late 1920s temporary housing facility for newly arrived employees of the capital. NewActon does at a precinct scale what the Burley Griffins attempted to achieve for the city: vegetable gardens deliver produce to the precinct restaurants; nature and architecture collide; and the architectural envelope folds into flora and art. The high-rise apartments (high but not too high) also feed into this ground level generously.

‘Nishi’ means ‘west’ in Japanese.It also relates to the last of three buildings built at the NewActon precinct: Nishi Commercial, Nishi Residential and Nishi Hotel Cinema Retail.