"Chinese ink and paper alone possess their own cultural vibrancy and history…
Borrowing from their innate power within the work, I continue to discover my own condition and alleviate the restlessness and uncertainty of reality,
convey beauty, strength, hope and resilience despite the feeling of nostalgia towards
things lost, struggling, or being destroyed."
Utilizing paper and ink as her own personal vocabulary, Lin Yan draws from her surroundings and life experiences to craft intimate, installation-based works that seem to live and breathe of their own accord.
Lin Yan created a type of architectural intervention specifically for the exhibition A Garden Window, held at Kwai Fung Hin in 2015. Her installations are always created in situ - responding to, and interacting with, the physical spaces themselves. Upon seeing her resolve various spatial issues, it comes as no surprise that her first choice of vocation was to become an architect (fortunately for us, her 'lines were never straight enough', and she went to art school instead). Fault Line #2, Inhale & Exhale, and Co-Existence are pieces that address themes of modernization and its impact upon the natural world.
Fault Line #2 is a soft-relief sculpture made from rubbings of various tree stumps and branches, which are stitched together into three-dimensional form. Lin reveals part of her process by leaving portions of these hollow stumps upturned, letting the viewer see the flecks of tree bark that have adhered to the xuan paper. Using a sparse network of black and white strings tied to the overhead water-pipes, she sets her cross-sectioned tree trunks against a grid-like pattern of inked paper squares, echoing the stone brick wall that stands directly across the street from the gallery. Held together in such a delicate manner, these elements illustrate nature's fragile yet beautiful interaction with human-made structures.
Inhale & Exhale also concerns the natural world: it continues a series that began as a personal reaction to Lin's experience of watching her hometown of Beijing being rebuilt as a modern city in 1990s. To her, developers of the new city did not respect Beijing's cultural history, nor did they adequately consider their impact on the natural environment. Indeed, in recent years, the continued pace of modernization has sometimes led to unbearable levels of pollution in the city. With Inhale & Exhale, Lin Yan raises the issue of the way in which humans choose to live alongside the natural world. Situated near the entrance to the gallery space, an ink-saturated, inflated mass hovers overhead as visitors enter the exhibition. Stitched to this mass is a charcoal drawing of a cheetah, crumpled and distorted. This assemblage provides us with a reminder of the heavy toll of human modernization on wildlife and nature.
Co-Existence is a response the construction-obsessed culture that is inherent to Hong Kong. In an effort to gain headroom, many indoor spaces within the city eschew a proper ceiling, instead laying bare a maze of cables, ductwork, and pipes, which lends an industrial quality to the interiors of even the most polished glass buildings. In one of the gallery's rooms, Lin Yan at once obscures and reveals these industrial elements, nestling them within layers upon layers of Xuan paper. In doing this, she highlights them, re-contextualizing these typically overlooked and purely utilitarian details as aesthetic elements in her work. In the softly lit space, Lin has created a peaceful sanctuary hung with two spiritually-themed pieces: At Home, which features the image of a Bodhisattva in relief, and Pray, which was cast from a New York City cobblestone. By incorporating these two works into the installation, Co-Existence moves beyond the relationship between humanity and nature, and asks the audience to consider the spiritual realm as well.