Getting to Know Lin Chunyan: An Ideal Sleepwalker
Lin Chunyan's paintings are of an unrestrained quality, attempting at the very least to break free from the limitations of people's own idealisms, unraveling a thread that brings a new way of reading this world's profound theories. He consciously drifts away from the main trends in contemporary Chinese oil painting, presenting us with an independent visual sense.
Lin Chunyan calmly and almost cruelly discloses a reality as such: thought is a sleepwalking experience.
The weight-less illusion continuously drifts in his paintings, and just at the point when instead of copiously mimicking, Chinese contemporary art gradually tries to find its own direction, a new nativist Chinese contemporary art context is emerging from the works of a group of artists, Lin Chunyan as such.
For the artist Lin Chunyan, the dream world is possibly more real and illusions are much more prone to be thought provoking. He wantonly merges together vegetables and people, overturning people's normal visual experience and bringing a totally new visual shock- the repeatingly occurring turnips, cabbages, corn, and pears in his paintings replace the symbols of human wisdom as well as the esteemed "human cranium"; the strength of display and the beauty of the human body are scrawled into a kind of "flat kite", an ignorant, feeling-less, unafraid phantom which though glutted with desire, is tediously floating around in this weightless world without direction, seemingly free but in fact lost in the nothingness.
If we then come to examine for a while this "individual's" intelligence, its sentimentality and appearance, as its head is that of a vegetable we therefore have to use another set of criterions; for example whether the content of vitamin C and carotene can transform the composition of genes, or how the buoyancy of the air affects a freely falling body..... But on the other hand there's no way of knowing the expression of an onion- is it happy or miserable? Lin Chunyan uses this method of ridiculing, resorting to play a serious game of the classification of species, creating a kind of special breed, so that we are unable to judge from the images in the pictures whether the vegetable has been endowed with a soul, or whether it is that belonging to a person that has lost its senses. This verifies the following; in a painting only the indefinable is precise.
Lin Chunyan, this genius of creating dreams, seems like a director of dark humor plays, sitting in the shadow far away in the back row, with a faint sneer at the edge of his mouth, examining how much the audience can take.
Jacques Lacan, in his theory of the mirror stage, says that the self and the body are often in the midst of disunion, the subjective self, making its outer appearance into a carrier of a sort of imaginative play, or into a symbol for the self. Similarly, Chinese Buddhism also has a chantra called "the appearance of all living creatures"; the notable individuals painted by Lin Chunyan, might as well be those "appearances". The evolution of the natural world is so very real, we indeed cannot clearly define "appearance", and we cannot tell what "he" is doing, swinging back and forth in this world of mortals (even though this strange, blurry, smudge like thing appears asexual, it still seems to communicate an association with the male. These are the confines of Lin Chunyan, or should we say, the confines of the learned?)
Exactly because of the difficulty of pinning down the theme of the works, and because of the artist's own reclusive nature, for some time Lin Chunyan's art hasn't received the deserved attention: for one thing, the topics of art critics have for the recent few years, stretched ahead of the scene, resulting in a sort of confusion of works and concepts, making it hard for Lin Chunyan's paintings to belong to any current established concepts. Secondly, Ling Chungyan has for some time refined a new different way of describing, although he still needs to find the relevant theoretical points of what he is describing behind the text, as well as within his own self-consciousness.
Lin Chunyan's paintings are of an unrestrained quality, attempting at the very least to break free from the limitations of people's own idealisms, unraveling a thread that brings a new way of reading this world's profound theories. He consciously drifts away from the main trends in contemporary Chinese oil painting, presenting us with an independent visual sense. Just in the same way as Jean-Henry Fabre becomes infatuated with insects, Lin Chunyan develops a fascination with plants (more exactly in normal vegetables and fruit), attempting to make these become the central theme in his paintings.
Here we are faced with an extremely interesting relationship: humanity cultivates crops, and then eats them. Through the short lifespan of these fruits and vegetables, the long life of humans is maintained. And fruits and vegetables are like a pleasing floral axis, the sweetness of fruits, the narcotic quality of the juices create a reliability on them by the part of humans, who use this kind of reliability for their purpose of largely replicating themselves. It seems as if these objective vegetables were manipulating the subjective humanity. Thus, Lin Chunyan uses the season's vegetables and puts them in place of the person's head, which not only seems in fact not the least absurd, but also allows us to spontaneously ponder: was the first thing that lured Eve in fact a snake or the apple?
Thus, does the combination of the human figure and vegetables in the paintings, hint upon a sort of link between two different sorts of life styles? Or is it the strait interpretation of the oriental philosophical theory that man is an integral part of nature? No, Lin Chunyan has never been a composed thinker, he has instead molded his own "vegetable version" of Faust, selling the soul to the devil and starting to move around the world of humans whilst in his search for god. In the end he finds out that god is not dead. While Niestche's remains are scarcely cold, in secular life the Utopian ideals of intellectuals have disappeared, and the essential consciousness has in the process of consumerist culture and in this carnival of the masses, fallen into a period of ill health, where modern people have lost themselves in their weariness of surviving. Lin Chunyan calmly and almost cruelly discloses a reality as such: thought is a sleepwalking experience.
Almost everyone has probably experienced the feeling that in a dream, the surroundings are realistic and precise, but the self and one’s own features are unclear, so is its identity, and our conducts loose meaning. No matter whether the relationship between human thought and god's laughter is indirect, the questions that bothered the ill and tormented Gauguin just before his death a hundred years ago, still puzzle modern humanity: Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going? Lin Chunyan makes use of his own sensibility to make his own Zhuangzi's Butterfly Dream, breaking it into a series of illusions of weightless floating, in the depths of his thoughts linking up Dali with Freud.
During the late 90s of the 20th century, fine art (a controversial concept that we will use for the moment) tended towards the two different directions of expressing day-to-day life and visual symbols. Lin Chunyan's paintings include precisely these two aspects in one: in the paintings there is realistic scenery (of a day-to-day nature), and he also represents fruit, vegetables and the human shape (all visual symbols). This theatrical combination of the two themes, develops into an absurd scene: in front of the realistic background of the stage, this goblin like main character, dances alone a ghostly dance.....
Lin Chunyan's vision is incisive and resourceful, keeping all along a certain distance from his own portrayals. He paints familiar scenery, but he projects this through an unfamiliar light; the everyday vegetables and fruits in his paintings don't seem particularly colourful or fragrant; the struggling human shape in the painting, has also nothing to do with the fickleness of the world. He attentively engages himself in a sort of imagery, unintentionally concocting a set of concepts, and cuttingly getting to grasp people's loneliness and helplessness, using banters as a means to express this....... just as he puts it himself: if art is too assiduous it is then not art.
Having resided in Australia (a country in a "post-colonial" cultural state) for ten years, Lin Chunyan has ever since questioned him self on the problem of Chinese artists' identity. Behind the westernized life style, he preserves a solid oriental complexity. This point is carried out throughout his whole artistic practice, directly reflecting in his painting style. As he "grafts" the human shape with that of fruits, he is also exploring the "grafting" of the material quality of oil painting with that of the spirit of Chinese ink painting. Of course, this kind of experiment is profound, accumulating what we could call sediment in the process, as well as being metaphoric. He mixes in hive wax and other materials when painting, making with such skilful technique the skin texture in the picture appear beautifully distinct, striving to reach "the soul of Chinese traditional freehand brushwork". At present, carried along in the muddied waters are all sort of artists, some which worship the foreign, others which pretentiously bring out Chinese characteristics in their works, and some which are bluntly tasteless... here the higher quality of Lin Chunyan's stands out. The important is that Lin Chunyan's painting language is definitely particular, and when faced with his paintings you won't have a reminiscent feeling.
The weigthless illusion continuously drifts in his paintings, and just at the point when instead of copiously mimicking, Chinese contemporary art gradually tries to find its own direction, a new nativist Chinese contemporary art context is emerging from the works of a group of artists, Lin Chunyan as such.
"Persimmon forest in the zoo", oil on canvas, 130x160cm, Lin Chunyan, 2003.
"Yuanmingyuan autumn", oil on canvas, 130x160cm, Lin Chunyan, 2003.
translated by: Kristian Bisbal Huguet