Origins

Secrets of the Butterfly – Oil on Canvas – Omay Lee 2019
In a world once abundant with insects and butterflies, their populations are rapidly declining. It is easy to forget how deeply our souls are intertwined with them. Yet our dreams can take us to places long forgotten or to the vital creatures which have lain unnoticed outside the peripheries of our focus. It the remembering (or the unforgetting) of the forgotten, which unlocks the secrets that metamorphose us into our true nature. Can we live in communion with these myriad beings?
The butterfly holds many ancient secrets. In ancient China, the poet Li Po once spoke of his friend Zhuangzi, who had a sacred dream. It goes like this:

Zhuangzi dreamed of being Butterfly,
As Butterfly once dreamed of being he.
Their souls encounter and transmogrify,
A thousand myriad beings they may be.

© Omay Lee 2019

Oil on Canvas [16x20inch] © Omay Lee 2020

Dance of the Golden Fish – Oil on Canvas – Omay Lee 2019
In the hustle and bustle of city life with all its seeming energy, there may be a pond which may appear stagnant on the surface – drained of its inner vitality it longs to dance once more. Yet peer a little deeper into the depths and a glimmer of life will emerge, subtle and not of the material world, but of an alchemy that is worth more than any gold.
“金华即金丹,神明变化,各师于心..” [太乙金华宗旨] “The golden flower is the vessel of a red substance of immortality, where bones turn to gold as spirit is transformed..” [Secret of the golden flower – ancient Daoist text]

Oil on Canvas [16x20inch] © Omay Lee 2020

Garden of Remembrance – Oil on Canvas – Omay Lee 2019
The wind, one brilliant day, called 
to my soul with an odour of jasmine.
“In return for the odour of my jasmine,
I’d like all the odour of your roses.”
“I have no roses; all the flowers
in my garden are dead”. 
“Well then, I’ll take the withered petals
and the yellow leaves and the waters of the fountain.”
the wind left. And I wept. And I said to myself:
“What have you done with the garden that was entrusted to you”

~ Antonio Machado

A garden of remembrance allows us to reflect on the withered state of the planet, and a need for a renewed sense of care for the flowers and the plants that are entrusted to us.

Oil on Canvas [16x20inch] © Omay Lee 2020

Tree of Life – Oil on Canvas – Omay Lee 2019
“Maybe you are searching among the branches for what only appears in the roots” – Rumi
A tree is not nurtured by its branches, but by the depth of its roots. Sometimes the sense of vitality of outer life depends on how willing we are to enter into the depths of the inner life.

Oil on Canvas [16x20inch] © Omay Lee 2020

Autumn Leaves – Oil on Canvas – Omay Lee 2019
Autumn is like a surrender, to let the red leaves fall like a melancholic shedding, a time of composting and of homecoming, in order to re-ignite the inner fire of the soul. The odes of autumn are described in the following passage by the ancient poet Li Bai, who described the wind which wails in sorrow, and awakens the song of the jackdaw:

秋风清, 秋月明 , 落叶聚还散, 寒鸦栖复惊

Autumn wind whirls,
Autumn wind wakes,
Flutters fall on dead leave furls,
Wakens forth as jackdaw quakes.
© Omay Lee 2019

Oil on Canvas [16x20inch] © Omay Lee 2020

Odes of the Mayfly [From the Ancient Book of Poems – The ShiJing]
蜉蝣之羽、衣裳楚楚。
心之憂矣、於我歸處。

The delicate mayfly’s wings
Flutter like splendid robes that caress 
The transience of all life; the heaviness of the heart 
Should we let them enter with us?


We share a common fate with the creatures, the insects, all that is living around us. To see the transience of all life, what common ground can we seek to maintain harmony?

Oil on Canvas © Omay Lee


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