Kwai Fung Art Gallery is delighted to present A Garden Window, a joint exhibition of Lin Yan and Wei Jia, which will mark the first time either artist has shown in Hong Kong.
Lin Yan and Wei Jia are based in Brooklyn, New York. The two artists grew up in China, and although their individual artistic development took them along different paths, they nevertheless arrived at the same preferred material: Chinese traditional Xuan paper. The two artists bring this centuries-old material into the present, each in their own unique manner. Lin Yan creates transformative in situ installations; Wei Jia employs an intensely process-oriented method of collage. The resulting works are stunning, and while they remain stylistically distinct from one another, there is nevertheless a common spirit that emanates from the work of these two artists - a sensibility that goes beyond the material. This exhibition seeks to open a window to this shared spirit between Lin Yan and Wei Jia.
Lin Yan grew up within a distinguished family of artists and was exposed to art at an early age. She studied oil painting at Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, and later continued her studies in Paris and the United States, where installation art became her focus. Although untrained in traditional ink painting, Lin has always been drawn to the expressiveness of paper and ink, and claimed these materials as her own. 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 has created a type of architectural intervention specifically for the present exhibition. Her installations are always created in situ - responding to, and interacting with, the physical spaces themselves. Both Co-Existence and Inhale & Exhale are pieces that address themes of modernization and its impact upon the natural world. 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. Lin Yan at once obscures and reveals these industrial elements, nestling them within layers upon layers of Xuan paper. Inhale & Exhale raises the issue of the way in which humans choose to live alongside the natural world. Situated near the entrance to the gallery space, a dark, ink-saturated mass hovers overhead as visitors enter the exhibition. Into this mass, she has literally stitched into this mass is an ink painting of a leopard, crumpled and distorted. The image provides us with a reminder of the heavy cost of human modernization, and that our actions are inextricably linked to the world around us.
Wei Jia was trained in ink painting from a young age. His early proficiency led him to study at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, where he met Lin Yan. Yet he found the rules of traditional Chinese calligraphy too stifling, and as he began his graduate studies in the U.S., he sought out new means of expression. Ever mindful of this tradition, which he continues to hold in high esteem, Wei Jia incorporates methods and materials that he learned in the U.S.; collage and gouache appear regularly in his art. Wei's work redefines tradition through his use of bold colours, his methodical tearing and remounting of Xuan paper, and the re-appropriation of Chinese script, which he strips of meaning and treats as abstract forms.
In his calligraphic collage works, Wei Jia literally tears apart his handiwork in order to create something wholly unique. Working on several sheets of Xuan paper layered together, he methodically covers the surface with traditional Chinese characters, using a mixture of Chinese Ink and gouache. Inspired by nature, he is drawn to colours that to him evoke a certain mood or memory. After studying the individual shapes of the brushstrokes, as well as the spaces between them, he begins to pull these elements apart, tearing fragments of paper from the surface, rearranging and layering them, and repeating this process over and over again until he feels the work is complete. Beginning from the meditative exercise of writing calligraphy, Wei Jia's subsequent method of deconstruction allows the element of chance to enter his artistic process, and each piece becomes a puzzle for the artist to solve. The resulting 'all-over' compositions, with their rhythmic, layered gradations of colour, emanate a unique presence that invites the viewer to take a closer look.
Within the evolving material culture of traditional Chinese art, Lin Yan and Wei Jia offer a fresh look at their chosen material, traditional Xuan paper. As this exhibition shows, however, neither artist is pre-occupied with tradition; it is part of myriad qualities that make up their artistic and personal identities. Growing up in China, educated abroad, and often traveling internationally, the two artists are enmeshed within an increasingly global art scene. Remarkably, however, they maintain down-to-earth, unhurried lives. Wei Jia spends his mornings in the greenery of nearby Prospect Park; Lin Yan finds inspiration in subtle architectural peculiarities on her daily commute to her studio. It is the effortless, seamless manner by which they infuse these daily life experiences into their art that makes it so authentic, and so compelling. Among the Zen-like, meditative works of Wei Jia and the deeply personal, yet socially conscious works of Lin Yan, we are given the chance to peer through a window into the complexity of their shared spirit.