Jin Lie

15 Nov - 18 Dec 2011

Curated by Peer Golo Willi
15 November - 18 December, 2011

Most paintings in the exhibition of work by the Chinese artist Jin Lie (* 1969 in Shanxi, China) at first seem very similar, differing only in format, colour selection and some details. They are empty rooms, which obtain depth through simple perspective. At the left of each painting, a curtain is draped in strict verticality, its transition to the room however, is disturbed by a thin rip.

The emptiness of the rear wall of the rooms is dominant - an emptiness which causes confusion. Jin uses a limited colour spectrum for the larger surfaces, usually comprising only slightly varying pastel shades. Implemented in an accurate yet dynamic manner, these surfaces appear to be nearly monochrome. Pure abstraction is not attained in this manner, even if the effect can be quite meditative in a certain way, as generally primarily evinced in abstraction.

The curtains stand out against the spatial depth and do not seem to be part of the room. Jin reproduced a found arrangement of folds using paper, ripped it, and photographed the thin paper along with its shadow to use as a template for the painting. This formulation process of the curtain motif explains its peculiar transition as the image of the room.

On several levels, the empty room is a metaphor for identity, a space which could be vacated, or, possibly also simultaneously, could be destined to be filled. Also the fragments of the curtain, which does not conceal nor fully uncover and effectively is not part of the emptiness, suggest a similar interpretation. For Jin the question of identity is biographically and historically traceable.

Jin, who left China in 1990 and immigrated to Germany, connects both levels in this exhibition by bringing together personal experiences and the history of China, in particular colonial history in the narrow and in the broader sense.

Along these lines, one painting shows the hazy suggestion of a medal featuring the portrait a woman. This medal with the visage of the English queen Victoria, Jin explains, was awarded to the commandos who had participated in the Second Opium War. The somewhat distorted shape and above all the paleness of the colours, the patchiness of the motif's rendition and the emptiness that in turn emerges anew from this, reveal that Jin treated the template similarly to those of the curtains in the room paintings before transferring it onto the canvas.

The American flag in the picture titled 1987 appears both familiar and at the same time estranged. The stars are missing. And the stripes are not red but violet. This picture, so Jin, was inspired by his childhood, in which he was faced with American pop culture via the not fully censored media, nearly inevitably after the economic liberalization of China in the 1970s. The symbolism of this flag is not only supplemented by biographical aspects (such as breakdancing) and political or historical ones (Pacific Fleet policies). Beyond this, it acquires a hint of irony through its visual alienation.

Peer Golo Willi
English translation by Zoë Claire Miller

Tags: Ou Jin