LIN YAN IN BRUSSELS :: Beyond Xuan

The exhibition space Officina in Brussels, directed by Annalisa Giannella, opened the first solo show exhibition in Europe by Lin Yan, a Chinese-born American artist.

The refined exhibition, hosted by a suggestive early 20th-century hôtel de maître, brings together a series of installations and artworks made by the artist on a support of excellence: the traditional and refined xuan paper hailing from the Chinese Tang dynasty (618–917 AD). Known for being resistant and malleable, this handmade paper, made by grinding mulberry leaves and elm tree barks, was and still is today the most privileged paper among experienced Chinese calligraphy masters. However, in Lin Yan’s work, it gets a different meaning, value and a different perception and corporeity, as it strides toward full integration in the contemporary world. The artist, indeed, through an accurate and refined game of layers, cuts, accumulations, folding and moulds, substantially and conceptually transfigures this precious and ancient paper, which from a simple support turns into matter and from a natural substance becomes form.

Delicate sculptures cover the walls and organically redefine the architecture of her hometown (Little Empire, 2014; My Rose, 2014), paper, wax and ink-made installations invade the space (Blank Pages, 2014; Between Inhale and Exhale, 2014; Passing By, 2014), but also collages and paintings where bolts, screws and nails – juxtaposed to the natural lightness and elegance of the xuan paper- emerge in sharp contrast (Notes #2, 2013; Notes #1, 2014; Both Sides of the Story, 2014). These elements, as well as the brick moulds and the floors in the works Old Town (2014) and Lotus Brick from No. 68 (2012), are meaningful and evocative references to the artist’s past, to her studio in Brooklyn and in Beijing, her hometown. The slow process of accumulation, sedimentation and laying of the materials used by Lin Yan to make some of her artworks, lets emerge, indeed, images replete with remembrances that invite to memory, to silence and to reflection.

The deep relationship that links and cadences the complete artworks collection is not only represented by their precious medium (which the artist commenced to use in 2005), it also lies in the fact that each of them was specifically conceived for this place looking over the Ixelles Ponds, just as unquestionably poetic as her works. Lin Yan, in fact, before these works, spent a long period in residence in the Officina, listening to it, shaping it and interpreting it. With their transparencies, forms and complexities, these artworks silently reshape the surfaces and the volumes of this maison devoted to art.

Moreover, the relationship between the works on display becomes even more intense through the unique antithetical and dialogic movement between the installations Between Inhale and Exhale and Blank Pages situate in the building’s middle floor. The first work is characterised by a shapeless xuan packaging filled with ink, on whose end, the one towards the floor, a creepy red stain appears; whereas, the second work is made out of long blank sheets lightly falling from the ceiling, from which visitors can catch a glimpse of a collection of books arranged on the bookcase inside the house, which, just like Lin Yan’s work, are extraordinarily discreet, intimate and silent. A week after the opening, I still read Between Inhale and Exhale as a wound of an already-written history, whereas Blank Pages, on the other hand, as the chance for the Art to re-write those blank pages of the history that haven’t been written yet.

The catalogue that accompanies the exhibition, curated by Annalisa Giannella, features the preface written by Pascale Viscardy and the critical essay by Robert C. Morgan.

Maria Elena Minuto
21.11.2014

LIN YAN, BEYOND XUAN
OFFICINA
Avenue du Général de Gaulle – Generaal de Gaullelaan, 45
web: www.officinart.com

Brussels, from November 15 to December 14, 2014
Opening hours: Wednesday – Saturday from 2.30 to 6 pm, Sunday from 12 to 5 pm; by appointment
(info@officinart.com / +32 (0)476 575749)