Every year the Asia Society organizes a series of programs and exhibitions from its New York headquarters, located at 725 Park Avenue, 70th Street in Manhattan, with the mission of enriching our knowledge of Asian art and stimulating cultural exchanges. The museum also houses an extensive permanent collection of contemporary art that includes the private Asian Art collection of Mr. and Mrs. John Rockefeller.
LIN TIANMIAO. Chatting, 2004.
New Yorkers have been privy to excellent exhibits from the Society over the years. Some time ago they launched their “China Close Up” program, focusing exclusively on the Asian giant, hosting artists like Wang Gong Xin and Lin Tianmiao.
Bound Unbound: Lin Tianmiao is the first large scale retrospective of the work of this magnificent Chinese artist. The exhibit was curated by the organization’s director, Melissa Chiu.
Born in 1961 in the Taiyuan Shanxi province, where her father worked as a painter, Lin Tianmiao studied fine arts at Beijing’s Capital Normal University. She would further develop her studies at the Art Students League of New York City. She lived in the Big Apple with her husband, artist Wang Gongxin, until 1994. After completing their curricula, they returned to Beijing, where they currently reside.
1. LIN TIANMIAO. Focus, 2001.
2. LIN TIANMIAO & WANG GONGXIN. Here or There?, 2002.
Lin developed thread winding, a technique inspired by childhood memories of helping her mother with her sewing. It consists of completely covering an object with cotton, cashmere or silk threads until it obtains the desired shape and texture.
Her first major work, The Proliferation of Thread Winding dates from 1995 and marks the beginning of her acclaimed international career. The same method was used in the stunning Here Or There?, a multimedia installation she created in collaboration with her husband. These works, along with the 2008 installation Mothers!!!, offer a vision that is both, heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time. Her work is delicate and precise and transports the viewer to the realm of rural artisans in China.
Lin’s artwork has been dubbed controversial: to some it is poetic, to others, grotesque. What remains is the fact that her work never goes unnoticed and elicits the most profound feelings in the viewer.
1. The Proliferation of Thread Winding, 1995.
2. Endless, 2004.
Conservative Chinese accuse her of being a feminist who uses art to criticize aspects of her own culture, such as the exorbitant development in construction or the increasing demand for luxury products. Ironically, it is in China where her work is most commercially successful. She is a woman of great prestige in a society dominated by men.
If there were a contemporary Chinese artist with whom Western audiences could identify, it would be Lin Tianmiao. The Asia Society exhibit unveiled works never seen outside her native China.■