In a career spanning nearly sixty years, contemporary ink artist Sha Lin (1940-2010) strove for innovation through a series of breakthroughs in developing his personal aesthetics in a wide range of mediums including ink art, Chinese calligraphy, oils, and installation. The work by Lin is based on his interpretation of I Ching, Yin and Yang, Five Elements, Chinese herbal medicine, and the Oriental cosmographical philosophy.
This exhibition provides an opportunity to experience Lin's work in retrospect, featuring ink art composed of profound imagery, Chinese calligraphy with dynamic strokes, and installation from his later years. Among the exhibits dated from 1960s to 2000s, the viewers can see Lin exploring the possibilities of Shan Shui painting through various forms and materials.
Lin was inspired by the Heaven-Earth-Human interactions in everyday life. When he was young, he achieved a mastery of I Ching, Yin and Yang, and Five Elements. For his entire life, he had been searching for the universe's most primitive message in life, through Buddhist teachings and Lao tze's and Zhuangzi's philosophy. Through his daily practice as a Chinese herbal doctor, Lin gained a deep understanding of fragility and suffering of human beings, and attained enlightenment on the Way of the universe. Lin's art is primarily rooted in his introspection of the essence of universal rules.
Lin's early ink art was created during the late 1960s and early 1970s when he first arrived in Europe. At that time, foreign surroundings and travel experiences helped open his eyes and broaden his mind to the diversity of Western art. His work presents an affectionable nostalgia that was derived from his innermost being. Lin chose not to emphasize on accurate depiction of landscape, but rather to present his painting as a window to his mind and a vehicle of philosophy.
By the early 1980s, Lin had begun to experiment with materials for his modernized form of ink art. Besides ink, he also used mixed media and Chinese medicinal herbal tea to work on paper. The combination of washed area and dripping brushwork results in meticulous details and energetic movement from colors and lines. After Lin settled down in New York in 1988, his ink painting showed more fluidity in an intuitive and spontaneous style where light and shadow were portrayed in overall visual effects in abstract composition. The work by Lin captures the essence of the subject in a freely expressive style.
Lin's work after 2000 employs concepts from I Ching, Medicine, and Feng Shui. He used ink, Chinese herbal medicine, rope-tied circles, wood, and stone to represent the harmony among humankind, nature, space and time, as well as the infinite life force in the universe. In the installation Five Elements Month, different kinds and colors of medicine are arranged to correspond to the liver, heart, spleen, lung, and kidney, which represent the basic principles of the months and organs in Medicine and the unification of Five Elements and art.
The unique style of Lin's abstract painting demonstrates an attempt to incorporate traditional Chinese ink material with Western modern and contemporary art style. He worked progressively from figurative depiction to boundless expression, delivering sincere beliefs on universal rules. In light of his carefree attitude, his work is not confined by the categorization of any art school. Lin's notable accomplishments certainly have created a new chapter in the history of contemporary ink art.