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Aristotle instructs the poet to plunge into the middle of things. Yet, on reflection, is there ever a beginning or an end? Every moment, by necessity, contains the imprint of what has gone before and seeds of that which is to come. Anywhere we begin, it is guaranteed to be the middle of something. We are forever destined to be in the midst of journeying,

And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

(T.S. Eliot)

Thus it is with Lin Yan, third generation of a family of artists, in the midst of an artistic journey of discovery that encompasses distances in space as well as in time.

Lin Yan was born in 1961 in Beijing, China. A graduate of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, she pursued graduate studies at the Ecole National Superieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris and received a Masters in Art from Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania before settling in New York. In the metaphoric space between China and the West, Lin Yan installs artistic creations that convey a genetically inspired and uniquely layered perception of the Western artistic mode into which she thrust herself. She melds her multiple influences, welding past and present, East and West, to create an artistic vocabulary suitable to her own purposes. Her terms extend formal constraints and defy traditional expectations for the materials she uses.

Closing the Circle Closing the Circle. 68 x 68 in., ink, resin xuan paper, 2006.
That Lin Yan draws on her Asian roots is made obvious by her titles, like To Beijing and City Moat, and the Chinese visual elements of roof tiles, Beijing window shapes, and floral motifs. Here, the color black makes reference to the rich ink shades of traditional Chinese painting and creates a mysterious depth with the blank space made of layers of traditional Xuan paper. The echoes of Eastern culture reverberate in other works, as Lin Yan composes simultaneously from a Western perspective in a feminine but hardly frail response to Western abstraction, creating Curtain and Veil, three-dimensional sculptural works constructed again from Xuan paper but solely in white, the confluence of all color. With whispers of China hovering in the background, the juxtaposition of black and white initiates an unforeseen stream of consciousness from yin and yang to the resolution of the profoundest dualities in human nature. In the works titled Companion, surfaces are textured by graphite and pencil markings, barely visible except as energetic improvisations in line and tonality that create tensions and demand a dialogue between tradition and the contemporary world and between technical rigor and the sensual abandonment of Lin Yanís self-conscious creations.

Linís 2005 series can be divided into two groups. In the first, she pastes layers of plain rice paper of differing sizes, textures, and colors onto a large plaster mold that is cast from the metal floor of her studio loft, creating a richly illuminated collage of complex textures and colors. In the second, she applies rice paper that has been soaked in ink to the plaster molds. From a distance, they appear to be pieces of black painted canvas. Closer inspection, however, reveals a fascinating visual interplay between ink, texture, fibers, and subtle variations of color. Inspired by the traditional dialogue between ink and paper in classical Chinese painting, Lin offers her own interpretation of ink on paper, raising the question: can the visual memory of these timeless elements sustain the tradition of classical Chinese painting itself?

Echoes in Silence Echoes in Silence. 75 x 65 in., xuan paper, 2006.

Linís art transcends the boundaries of being Western or Chinese despite the fact that her work follows two generations of modern artists in her own family. Her grandfather, Pan Xunqin returned to Shanghai from Paris in 1930 to introduce modern art to China. After years of creating art outside of China, Lin, like her grandfather, returns to elemental symbols of Chinese cultural tradition. She transforms ink and paper within her immediate geography, whether it is the physical space of her studioís metal floors in New York or the infinite space of displaced memories infused with Beijingís traditional architecture, to establish a contemporary tradition through her poignant depiction of cultural memory.

Ultimately, Lin Yanís journey, as all serious voyages, is a journey inward. Memory and history carry her from the past and condition her perception of the present with expressions that have evolved over generations. Linís elegant creations challenge our intellect and our complacency. In her internally persuasive discourse, imaginings from the past coalesce with visions of the future, and echoes in the moment herald approaching dreams.

© 2006 Copyright for China 2000 Fine Art


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