LIN Yan, with xuan paper and ink as her major materials, creates installations and painting sculptures equipped with architectural characters. She has innovated the conventional roles of ink and paper: wrinkling, breaking, tearing, pasting become her creative vocabulary; the tradition of five colors of ink is given new life when the light and shadow in space come into play. Black and white, firmness and softness are harmoniously juxtaposed; each quality implicates the other, like the constant negotiation of void and fullness in tai chi, or the yin-yang balance in traditional Chinese philosophy. 
LIN was born into a distinguished family of artists in Beijing in 1961. Her maternal grandfather, PANG Xunqin, and maternal grandmother, QIU Ti, were the pioneers of Chinese modern art; her parents, LIN Gang and PANG Dao, were the first-generation artists nourished by Chinese high art education. As the third generation of the family, LIN Yan has inherited their aesthetic spirit since childhood, but she was confident to establish an idiosyncratic artistic vocabulary. After graduating from The Central Academy of Fine Arts, LIN pursued further studies at L'École National Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1985. Then, she obtained her master's degree from the Department of Art Studio at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, USA. When her home country was mired in social turbulence, LIN was allowed to enjoy the freedom of creation in New York, committing herself to exploring and experimenting with the materials.
In 1994, LIN returned to Beijing, and to her dismay, the once familiar city was virtually ruined in urban modernization. The urge to respond to the changes swelled inside her. She began to cast, with paper, the partial objects of old buildings in Beijing, such as roof tiles and rivets, so as to crystalize her feelings for traditional culture in her works. To Beijing series can be viewed as her signature work at this stage. Meanwhile, she entered what would be called "the black period" of her career, when she took pains to elaborate the gradations and strength of black the color. In 2005, she creatively transformed xuan paper into her major material, expanding the aesthetic domains of contemporary art. The seemingly fragile material nonetheless enables her to express "what the artist perceives to be true and authentic." As she explained, "I use paper and ink for their ability to record intricate effects of wear and tear on the cultural and material fabric of our contemporary world, and, at the same time, to restore culture and peace within conflicts. Despite the feeling towards things lost, struggling, or being destroyed, there is also beauty, strength, hope, and persistence in these sculpted paper paintings." Her choice of material also reflects her personal philosophy: "Even though paper may endure a thousand year, it can return to the nature ultimately. Not a hint of trace left. This is how I want my life to end as well." 
Also interested in spatial and architectural forms, LIN has created many large site-specific installations lately. These works—sustaining the contrast between their massive appearance and their light weight and feel—embody Taoist attitude towards being and nothingness. As the art critic Zhijian Qian noted, LIN seems to raise the question through her creation: "can the visual memory of these timeless elements sustain the tradition of classical Chinese painting itself?" In the kaleidoscopic world of contemporary art, LIN Yan seizes the oldest and modest material to unfold her everlasting affections for her surroundings, culture, and history.


Born in Beijing, China


B.F.A., Department of Oil Painting, Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, China


Atelier of Technique of Painting, L'École National Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France


M.A., Department of Art Studio, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, USA

Now lives and works in New York, USA



Solo Exhibitions


"Lin Yan", ESLITE GALLERY, Taipei, Taiwan


"Lin Yan: Beyond Xuan", Officina, Brussels, Belgium


"Lin Yan: Dispelling the Clouds", Tenri Cultural Institute, New York, USA


"Lin Yan: Paperweight", Fou Gallery, New York, USA


"Lin Yan: Embracing Stillness", Sprint Flatiron Prow Art Space, New York, USA


"Lin Yan: Enshrouded", Cheryl McGinnis Gallery, New York, USA


"Lin Yan: Remaking", China Square Gallery, New York, USA


"Lin Yan: Echoes in the Moment", China 2000 Fine Art, New York, USA


"Lin Yan: To Beijing", Open House Exhibition, New York, USA


"Lin Yan: The Beginning", Twin Cranes Gallery, Seattle, USA


"Lin Yan: Tai Chi in Painting", Haas Gallery, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, Bloomsburg, USA



Selected Group Exhibitions


"A Garden Window—Lin Yan & Wei Jia", Kwai Fung Hin Art Gallery, Hong Kong, China


"Sovrapposizioni Di Immagini", Casa Dei Carraresi, Treviso, Italy


"Double Vision: The Culture China Overseas Chinese Women's Invitational Exhibition", He Xiangning Art Museum, Shenzhen, China


"The 12th National Exhibition of Fine Arts—Mixed Media Paintings", Hebei Museum, Shijiazhuang, China


"Modernity 3.0 / Bridging East-West Art", 80 WSE Gallery, New York University, New York, USA


"Tales of Two Cities: New York & Beijing", Bruce Museum, Greenwich, USA


"Transcending Boundaries: Qin Feng, Wei Jia and Lin Yan", Amy Simon Fine Art, Westport, USA


"Start from Tradition: Lin Yan & Wei Jia", Cheryl McGinnis Gallery, New York, USA


"New York Beijing, Here There", Yuan Art Museum, Beijing, China


"4th Taipei Contemporary Ink Painting Biennial", National Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, Taipei, Taiwan


"Art on Paper 2012: The 42nd Exhibition", Weatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, USA


"Phoenix Singing—Traveling Exhibition of Contemporary Female Art", Tree Museum, Beijing, China


"Vaulting Limits", Tenri Cultural Institute of New York, New York, USA


"Art on Paper", Gallery North, Long Island, USA


"Asian Variegations", Chelsea Art Museum, New York, USA


"2011 Paper Art Biennial", National Art Gallery, Sofia, Bulgaria


"Giving and Receiving: A Collaborative Exhibition of Contemporary Artists from China and the USA", CU Art Museum, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, USA


"Lin Yan + Wei Jia: Echoes from the Past", Amy Simon Fine Art, Westport, USA


"Third Taipei International Modern Ink Painting Biennial", National Museum of History, Taipei, Taiwan


"Spring Equinox", Yuan Art Museum, Beijing, China


"Intertwining Layers", Cheryl McGinnis Gallery, New York, USA


"Living Ink", Gallery Korea, Korean Cultural Center, New York, USA


"Here & Now: Chinese Artists in New York Chapter 1", Museum of Chinese in America, New York, USA


"Making It", 60 Wall Gallery, Deutsche Bank, New York, USA


"Quiet Quest: From Realism to Abstraction", One Moon, Beijing, China


"Art Graduate Reunion Exhibition, Class of 1980, Studio III, Department of Oil Painting: Celebrating 90th anniversary of Central Academy of Fine Arts", Loft 3 Gallery, Beijing, China


"Shanghai MoCA Envisage II—Butterfly Dream", Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai, Shanghai, China


"Cross Reference: 11 Artists from New York", Shuimu Art Space, Beijing, China


"Then and Now: Chinese Art from 1710 to 2007", Lamont Gallery, Phillips Exeter Academy, Exeter, USA


"Chinese Gardens for Living: Illusion into Reality", The Dresden State Art Collections, Dresden, Germany


"The Transforming Marks of Ink", The Dresden State Art Collections, Dresden, Germany


"Chinese Traditions Reconfigured", Amy Simon Fine Art, Westport, USA


"Touched by Women's Hands", Cheryl McGinnis Gallery, New York, USA


"Reboot: The Third Chengdu Biennale", Museum of Contemporary Art Chengdu, Chengdu, China


"Corresponding & Responding: United Exhibition of Chinese-American Artists 2007", National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China


"In and Out", 2x13 Gallery, New York, USA


"Language / Environment", Museum of Contemporary Art, Beijing, China


"Qi Yun: International Traveling Exhibition of Chinese Abstract Art", OCT Contemporary Art Terminal of He Xiangning Art Museum, Shenzhen; Beijing Art Now Gallery, Beijing; Artist Commune, Hong Kong, China; China Square, New York, USA


"Translucent, Transparent, Transported", Cheryl McGinnis Gallery, New York, USA


"Visible / Invisible", One Moon Gallery, Beijing, China


"Chinese Contemporary Visions", Amy Simon Fine Art, Westport, USA


"Curators' Choice: China", Art Complex Museum, Duxbury, USA


"Transplant–Transculture", Wave Hill, Bronx, USA


"Travelers Between Cultures: Contemporary Chinese Artists in New York", Visual Arts Center of New Jersey, New Jersey, USA


"Trans-Boundary Experiences: An Exhibition of Contemporary Art from China, Japan and Korea", Spool Mfg, Johnson City, USA


"Brooklyn", Westport Arts Center, Westport, USA


"New Chinese Occidentalism: Chinese Contemporary Art in New York", Ethan Cohen Fine Arts, New York, USA


"Simplicity in Life", Crystal Foundation Art Gallery, New York, USA


"Simplicity in Life 2", William Fellows Architects, New York, USA


"The Paper Chase: Creations in Paper by Four Contemporary Chinese Artists: Wei Jia, Lin Yan, Hou Wenyi and Zeng Xiaojun", China 2000 Fine Art, New York, USA


"Visual Dialogue: Chinese American Artists in New York: Emily Cheng, Lin Yan, Arlan Huang and Guoqing Heaton", China 2000 Fine Art, New York, USA


"Yesterday and Other Stories: Changing Notions of Contemporary Chinese Landscape", Plum Blossoms Gallery, New York, USA


"Art Span: Three Generations, Nine Artists in One Family", satellite show of Shanghai Biennial, Shanghai, China


"Art China", Limn Art Gallery, San Francisco, USA


"Global Roots: Artists from China Working in New York", Purdue University, West Lafayette, USA


"Open Salvo", White Box Gallery, New York, USA


"Three Generations of Chinese Modernism –Qiu Ti, Pang Tao, Lin Yan", Soho20 Gallery, New York, USA; National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China; Art Beatus Gallery, Vancouver, Canada


"Recent Paintings by Chinese-American Artists", Cork Gallery, Lincoln Center, New York, USA


"Man Woman Child / Husband Wife Son", Gallery Contempo, Jubilee Arts Center, New York, USA


"Qi", Central Academy of Fine Arts Art Museum, Beijing, China


"Second Spring: Contemporary Chinese Painting & Sculpture", University of San Diego; San Diego State University, San Diego, USA


"Pang Family Painting Exhibition", Lung Men Art Gallery, Taipei, Taiwan


"From Central Academy of Fine Arts", Tokyo University of the Arts, Tokyo, Japan


"National Youth Art Exhibition", National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China


"Beijing City Art Exhibition", National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China


"1st Annual Exhibition of China Oil Painting Association", Zhongshan Park, Beijing, China



Public Collections

Museum of Contemporary Art Chengdu, Chengdu, China

Deutsche Bank, New York, USA

Long Museum, Shanghai, China

Pang Xunqin Museum, Changshu, China

Teda Contemporary Art Museum, Tianjin, China

National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China

Central Academy of Fine Arts Art Museum, Beijing, China

Lin Yan: The Gateway to the Future

By Robert C. Morgan
"Making art is like giving birth. I can't hold it. There is nothing much to talk about. Because it’s personal and genuine, people see it
and feel it deeply." (1)
-- Lin Yan (2006)
In studying the eloquent paperworks of Lin Yan, it soon becomes apparent that not all artists know what she knows or understand what she understands. By this I mean that the task of knowing is not merely a transmission of information from one point to another – either in terms of word or image. Rather the works of Lin Yan concern what the American poet William Carlos Williams once called "an embodiment of knowledge." To possess knowledge requires a sense of diligence, focus, and concentration that exceeds the limitations of everyday information. Whereas information scans the human brain on a routine basis giving us trivial data, puerile nonsense, regurgitated forms of propaganda, and seductively programmed advertising, the phenomenon of knowledge goes much deeper.
To acquire knowledge is a process that admits a form of heightened sensory cognition. It is a process received not through the separation of mind from body, but through the unified structure of mind and body. This kind of sensory awakening if precisely located within the process of art – both as something physically created, and something aesthetically received. One might argue that while information represents a normative state of reception where mind and body are forced into separation, knowledge is something more profound.  It is a quality that exists within the consciousness of art. While I recognize this course of thinking may not find acceptance among secular theorists bent of standardizing the thoughts and emotions of human beings into a globalized network, the true artist operates on a much different level. The imperative for the artist is to liberate thought and emotion from the dulling impact of repetitive slogans proclaimed by electronic media.
In responding to the paperworks of Lin Yan, I am given an alternative point of reference. In a recent telecommunication, I received the followed note from the artist:
"I use paper and ink for their ability to record intricate effects of wear and tear on the cultural and material fabric of our contemporary world, and, at the same time, to restore culture and peace within conflicts. Despite the feeling towards things lost, struggling, or being destroyed, there is also beauty, strength, hope, and persistence in these sculpted paper paintings." (2)
The transmission of art as a form knowledge is something rare today, given its competition with the abundance of spectacles and popular entertainment. Whereas Lin Yan's paperworks do not move, spectacles project a constant flickering, a perennial strobe that keeps us in a sublimated condition of panic and off-balance. As I engage visually with Lin Yan's Gateways and Pathways (2007), cast from metal and brick, using traditional xuan paper and ink, I am aware of their tactile sensation – "tactile" in the sense that these works are possessed by a kind of physical presence (as well as a paradoxical absence). They hold my focus and therefore sustain a feeling of balance and equilibrium within my breath of consciousness. To transmit a form of balance in a work of art is a marvelous and rare achievement. In the more recent Monuments (2008), I receive a similar affect. While this recent series suggests an ecological intention in referring to the "grey city" filled with air pollution, this does not deter from the initial structure. Embedded within her joy of casting details from architectural sites she has known while growing- up or in her young adult years as she entered into the world as a mature artist, one may visually absorb the feeling of dark ink and billowing ecstasy of delicately torn sheaves of xuan paper.
The contrast between Monument #8 and Monument #9 is a curious one. Each of these recent works (2008) emphasizes the paper casting of bricks in her backyard in Beijing. Whereas Monument #8 focuses primarily on the whiteness of the xuan paper, the majestic blackness of Monument #9 reveals a vertical separation between the top section of cast bricks in relation to the loose folds of papers underneath. The entire work is covered with ink.
Thus, Monument #9 offers a different mood not only due to the all-over blackness in contrast to the predominant whiteness of Monument #8, but also in its extreme vertical format. In her important interview with Liu Libin (2006), Lin Yan expresses her motivation is her use of black ink: "Although my works are black and blank, I never feel that they are only one color. There is a sufficient vocabulary with blacks and Chinese xuan paper." (3) Elsewhere, in the interview, she says: "The richness of blacks is like ink in Chinese painting. Black is a complex and sensitive color. It's very powerful when you handle it well." (4)  From the perspective of Abstract Expressionism, this recalls the painter Robert Motherwell's use of black, especially in his series of "Elegies to the Spanish Republic." While Motherwell emphasized the tragic and somber connotations of black, Lin Yan's perspective is much different. Generally, from a Chinese perspective, one reads black as having less to do with tragedy than fertility, the place where things grow out of the darkness, which is an essential Taoist teaching.
On several occasions, Lin Yan has spoken of her relationship to architecture as a symbolic place closely aligned with memory. "The demolition of the old architecture hurts me … I have painted each of the places where I have lived. Architectural elements are important to me. They related to my home, my culture and express my experiences in different periods." (5) Thus, Lin Yan will cast metal floors and walls of bricks not simply as decorative or textural patterns in the formal sense, but as signifiers of her past and of China's past as well. In addition, the artist further speaks of the contrasting elements of metal as having an industrial significance and paper as a more delicate cultural component directly associated with Eastern aesthetics, writing, and philosophy.
Having come from an important artistic family associated with the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing (where she, in fact, was educated and later taught), and having been raised with an acute visual and aesthetic sensibility, the architectural traces of Chinese culture are important to her. She pays attention to the details in architecture and is gratified that her work captures something of her intimate past, not only in China but in Brooklyn as well, where she maintained a studio for many years. In Lin Yan's case, the studio is a place of inspiration and delight: therefore, what she sees on a regular basis in the process of developing and envisioning her work becomes essential to her knowledge as an artist. In the Tao Te Ching, much emphasis is given to the details of what one sees in nature, and nature – in contrast to Western philosophy – is less in opposition to culture and an extension of it. What one senses and what one knows are not equivocal; they are essentially the same. In this regards, the kind of heightened sensory cognition felt by the artist in the intimacy of her studio is a preeminent aspect of her work.
One might consider that Lin Yan's work as an artist encompasses three necessary and important components: memory, time, and history. The philosophers Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu, whose teachings were established in southern China between the sixth and fourth century B.C (6), focused on the "path" or the "way." Therefore, when we incur memory, time, and history, we consider "the way" in relation these components. Each component is dependent on the other two. For history to exist, time and memory must exist.  For memory to exist, time and history must exist, and so on. But as the Tao te Ching makes clear:
That which is called Tao
is indistinct and ineffable
Ineffable and indistinct,
yet therein are objects, 
Deep-seated and unseen,
therein are essences,
The essence is quite real,
therein is the vivid Truth (7)
It is always problematic to put such ideas within an outside context and still allow them to resonate with their own special meaning, a task once given to centuries of Chinese scholars who contemplated the application of the "way" in relation to everyday reality. Even so, language is all that we have as a structural means of transmission. It would seem appropriate that a clear understanding of ink and paper in China, over centuries of time, is not at all exempt from the "way" as a form of absence in art. With all the strategies of language given to twentieth century Western philosophy, particularly in recent poststructuralism, it would appear that the distance between language and expression as a fundamental attribute of art has become too distant. Yet when I envision the recent Gateways and Monuments of Lin Yan, I am tempted to relinquish the excessive burden of theory in favor of a more clear and resonant idea: that maybe the future is not so far away. Maybe, in fact, the future is within our grasp, within the silent interludes given to memory, time, and history.

1  Liu Libin, Interview with Lin Yan (2006)
2  Telecommunication from Lin Yan to the author (May 13, 2008)
3  Liu Libin, op. cit.
4  Ibid.
5  Ibid.
6  Chang Chung-yuan, Creativity and Taoism (NY: Harper, 1963), p. 27
7  Tao Te Ching (Ch. XXI) cited in Chang, op. cit., p. 10


Robert C. Morgan is an international critic, artist, curator, and lecturer who lives and works primarily in New York City. As a Contributing Editor to Sculpture Magazine, Professor Morgan is focused on the problems of the artist in an era of global transition. In 1999, he received the first Arcale award in Art Criticism from the Municipality in Salamanca (Spain). In 2005, he was awarded a Fulbright senior scholar award to do research on the traditional arts and their influence on the Korean avant-garde. He holds both an advanced degree in Sculpture and a Ph.D. in contemporary art history, and currently lectures at Pratt Institute and the School of Visual Arts in New York. In addition to his many books and essays (with translations in 16 languages), Professor Morgan has curated over 60 exhibitions, including Allan Kaprow (1979), Max Ernst: The Late Prints (1989), No Trends (1990), Logo Non- Logo (with Pierre Restany) (1992), Symbolic Surface (1994), Silent Exile (2006), The Optical Edge (2007), and Semiosis (2008).



Author / LIN Yan
  • Language
  • PriceNT$ 150
  • Publisherthe eslite corp.
  • Size29.6 (H) x 83.6 (W) cm
  • Publication Date2016/04
  • ISBN

The folded brochure presents the Mandarin version of Robert C. Morgan's "Lin Yan: The Gateway to the Future", which helps the readers understand the artist's creative spirit. Meanwhile, we select some of LIN Yan's works from 1996 to date, such as Kongqu, Sky #2, and Pondering created in situ at ESLITE GALLERY.


2016      "Lin Yan", ESLITE GALLERY, Taipei, Taiwan

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