With very different voices, cross-cultural Chinese artists Lin Yan and Wei Jia use Xuan paper and ink to elegantly express nature and issues of honoring and breaking with traditions, layering cultures, and exploring the delicate balance between masculine and feminine in Intertwining Layers at Cheryl McGinnis Gallery.
As a married couple living primarily in New York, Lin Yan and Wei Jia were born in Beijing and influenced by the ancient traditions as well as by political and social conflict. While each employs ink with Xuan paper, which has been used to record Chinese philosophy and culture since the Tang Dynasty, their exposure to eastern and western concepts and techniques has allowed them to digest and depart from both. By layering the archival paper based on its contrasting qualities of delicacy and strength, translucence and opacity, and a broad range of absorbency, the artists have developed unique transcendent languages with textures informed by the paper’s origins as processed bark from elm trees.
Born into a prominent lineage of Chinese artists, Lin Yan was educated in Beijing, Paris and the United States. Freeing herself from all convention, she journals her surroundings by painting with paper and movement without use of a brush. In this current series, she uses a rich palette of white combined with ink-soaked Xuan fibers to cast reliefs of architectural elements in flowing, cloth-like compositions that break with the geometric structures usually associated with buildings. “The architectural elements in my work are mostly from Beijing’s old house, although ‘Rain’ is from Brooklyn. The form of brick used in the ‘Monument’ series, is dedicated to the lost culture of Beijing City. They are used in the ‘Flag’ series
- ‘This Nation’, ‘Brick by Brick’, ‘That World’ - with the expression of remaking and going beyond borders of countries.” The structure of urban materials combined with organic cycles also speaks to the continuing struggle between nature and global industrialism.
Educated in China and the United States, Wei Jia has been inspired by traditional Chinese calligraphy as well as by western artists. While traditional calligraphy is brushed onto the surface of paper or silk, Wei Jia applies numerous tactile layers of Xuan paper onto canvas as if it were pigment. Unlike Lin Yan, his palette extends to subtle colors that are painted onto the paper, which is often ripped to produce texture and ambiguity of association. By rendering the characters devoid of literary context, he explores what the character suggests, the abstract beauty of its shapes, curves and the varied velocities of stroke by a particular master’s hand, while offering the universal cross-cultural experience of how one perceives an unfamiliar language. In this series produced at his Beijing studio, Wei Jiia explores “traditional Chinese poetry and sensation toward nature and [his] everyday life. The characters are melted into marks and layers as landscape on canvas that let the viewer’s eyes travel with their own journey.”
Lin Yan Selected Exhibition History: National Art Museum of China, Beijing; Dresden State Art Collections, Germany; Museum of Chinese in America, NY, He Xiang-ning Museum in China; Chengdu Contemporary Art Museum in China; Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai. Selected Public Collections: National Art Gallery of China, Beijing; Pang Xunqin Museum, Changshu; Chengdu Contemporary Art Museum; Museum of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing; Deutsche Bank.
Wei Jia Selected Exhibition History: National Museum of Art, Beijing, Binghamton University Art Museum, NY; Art Complex Museum, MA; Kean University, NJ; The Cork Gallery, Avery Fisher Hall, NY; Center Gallery, Bucknell University, PA; The Chinese Cultural Institute, MA; Museum of Chinese History, Beijing.