Focus on Paper by Lin Tian Miao

Treading lines

It is without doubt, very interesting to see a combination or compilation of printing techniques in Lin’s work. Pushing the boundaries of print making in paper making, lithography and silkscreening, we see unusual flocking, Styrofoam, pins and silk thread attached to the work. From a minature level, they seem like installations on paper, in a microcosm landscape. The sensitivity to pictorial composition, texture and experimentation is tremendously inspiring. These technical exploration are perhaps more curious beyond the context of experimentation, what they do to the surfaces and meaning of the work.

“In Focus and Seeing Shadows Series, Lin depicts individuals with personal connections to her, along with ruined landscapes and the dilapidated interiors of traditional Chinese Hutong houses. Although blurred and indistinct, the intricate details applied on the images suggest great attention to the memory of these characters and places” [Wall text]. The prints are largely blurred images, reminding one of Christian Boltanski’s haunting obituary photographs that elude reality. The haunting here is different, consisting of personal relationships to the artists, and traditional Chinese houses that are making way to the rapid urban development of Beijing and elsewhere in China.

Like Boltanski’s interest in the “ephemera of the human experience”, the eradication of these landscapes are similar to erasing one’s memories; on a larger scale cultural erasure to a certain extent. Like many of the Chinese artists that deal with memory and loss of culture through photography like Zhao Bandi, or painterly in the Yue Mingjun aesthetics, Lin has touched on real issues of the rising power of China, Chinese aesthetics, and the restructuring of its physical landscape, through a non provocative expression in her work. The nuance is perhaps in the use of the white and greys, and embosses on paper and thread. The lightness is subtle and a stark contrast to ‘sensationalist’ art that is in your face, vulgar and crude. The whiteness of the image also suggests the kind of Absence that Rachel Whiteread would have had similar concerns through her work, whether or not Lin was conscious of it.

The use of thread and needles suggests a certain connection to domesticity, the role of women to wash, cook, sew and mend clothing. The concept of needle and thread is particularly poignant in Chinese folklore, reminding one of the story of Mencius’ virtuous mother, sewing to eke a living for the family. Perhaps the works are a commentary of the role of women in a Chinese Patriarchy society, not in the obvious way, but like how through Impressionist Berth Morrisot’s limited subject matter of interiors and children show the status of women artists of her time. Perhaps Lin is treading more than threads, speaking her worth in Chinese Contemporary art, in her own lines.


7 of 10 stars

Till April 21, catalogue available for $20.

STPI, 41 Robertson Quay

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