Annie Hui Chen Lin, a Taiwanese contemporary artist was the lakeside artist in residence from 2008 to 2009. Having little knowledge of the artist or the work surrounding her, I sought inspiration prior to looking around by flicking through the artist’s guestbook at the entrance. Amongst appreciative dreamy grown up responses and endearing comments from children one stood out to me; “Absolute Bollocks! I think it is case of the emperor’s new clothes!” elusively signed S. I was particularly struck by this message because it followed a lovingly scrawled out note by an eight year old, the contrast was laughable.
Therefore braced with these comments and the artist’s brief but direct guidance of her work I looked round the exhibition, attempting to be as open minded as possible. Lin’s series of abstract paintings examines her own experiences of femininity; using a palette of bright and somewhat shocking colours as a beard to hide the darker themes of jealously, anger, frustration and arousal. On the one hand I find myself loving Lin’s striking paintings in their raw state, the contrast of colours with textures. The mix of modern western and more traditional Chinese techniques was definitely striking and new to me. When referring back to the artists descriptions however it dawned on me that I had been looking at them through the naivety of a child’s eyes. On closer inspection all these beautiful swirling random brush strokes became these lurid sexual objects, their innocence was lost, the randomness was not so random, and therefore finding what I thought to be a beautiful mess became garish and jaw dropping.
Although… was S right, was this bollocks? And were we as the audience being fooled into seeing something in these abstract paintings that’s not really there? In some way I see where Lin could be coming from. These paintings embody the allusion and superficial gloss of femininity. At a glance they are pretty works of art yet they conceal deeper darker secrets, which appear to come in the form of the taboos of womanhood. S might think it a load of showy rubbish, the children were clearly charmed by the beauty; personally I’m still on the fence. Although not completely to my taste I still feel intrigued by her work, and Lin is certainly one I will look out for.
By Melanie Solomon