Beauty In Instability – Sherman Lin

Chinese artist Sherman Lin discusses his style, technique, and inspiration from humanity and nature in his abstract paintings.

Sherman Lin is a Chinese contemporary artist whose upcoming exhibition at New York’s Agora Gallery will be his first outside his homeland. The artist developed his architecture and interior design career in the 1980s, growing the company, Newsday’s Interior Design and Construction Co., into one of the most prominent design firms in the country. Nowadays, he lives in Canada and travels between his home and China for company projects, but he always has time to paint. Known to be abstract but structured in a geometric way, Sherman’s art is influenced by primitive art, nature, and traditional Chinese ink painting. The combination of these techniques make Sherman’s artwork one of a kind in both style and message, ultimately expressing the artist’s love of life and nature.

“Humanity and nature are integrated. Humanity is just one part of nature, while nature is a permanent part of humanity.” The series that will be on display at Agora Gallery is called “Falling Mountains”, and will hint not only at the poetic mood of his works that illustrate the overwhelming mightiness and power of falling rocks but will also remind us of the tempestuous relationship between the artist and his works.

Falling Mountains No 45
“Falling Mountains No 45”
Ink & mixed media on canvas
72″ x 56.5″

Are there certain artistic movements or styles that influence your work? 

I am deeply influenced by The Modernist Art Movement of the 20th century, and artists such as Claude Monet, Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, and subsequent artists like Andy Warhol. It is no doubt that the spirit of revolution in the realm of art has been encouraging to me. My teacher, Mr. Wu Guanzhong, who studied in France, brought back the European avant-garde ideology. My enlightenment was motivated by the early artistic ideas in France and The Bauhaus modern design ideology in Germany of the 20th century. My educational background in interior design has given me a keen sense of materials and space and has helped me to achieve, to an extent, a unique personalized visual language system.

I create my own structures between straight, square, and broad brush strokes and flowing lines in my paintings, establishing a new set of painting rules.

I have also begun exploring the abstract expressionist style of painting and spatial design of the frame, the construction of a personalized artistic language system. This system is based on the spirit of traditional Chinese ink paintings, docking the concept of contemporary art, which can transform the physical nature of ink paintings into contemporary expression and transmit this new information. The development and evolution of abstract paintings are undoubtedly parts of human aesthetic activities that need to be inherited and developed. In this foundation, I always pay close attention to the evolution of the present society.

Do you utilize traditional Chinese methods in your work?

I try to use traditional tools and ink materials to achieve conversion. It does not matter whether it is the traditional Chinese or western in terms of the use of material and methods. I use traditional Chinese ink to carry on the exploration of the spirit of Chinese ink paintings to find a balance between Eastern and Western cultural differences and conduct a dialogue between the traditional ink and Western acrylic paint, two kinds of materials that normally cannot be reconciled.

How has growing up in China inspired your art?

I grew up in China. I experienced the Great Cultural Revolution, a cruel class struggle that resulted in the tragic loss of many innocent lives. My individual freedom was oppressed in my youth. I longed for freedom and the pursuit of independent thinking. The long-time suppression of free thinking has molded my own rebellious character. The expression of such rebellious and free thoughts has become the motivation of my artistic creations.

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The series on view at Agora Gallery, Falling Mountains reminds one of rocks or geodes, even though each work is abstract. Was this your intention?

The Falling Mountains Series is a kind of a monologue of my soul with nature, the mark deep down in my soul made by my near-death experience. It makes me think about life, the meaning of life and the future.

Based on individual values and the logic of thinking, my work is an abstract expression. In traditional Chinese paintings, artists tended to use scenery to express their emotions. I am using the movement of the mountain to express a mood to consign my attention to drastic changes in a turbulent society.  I was also inspired by the plateau reaction of life and death experiences in Tibet. The earth is the source of all life, and it is also the source of my creations. The earth and I have an eternal bond and we carry on a life -long dialogue.

What does this series mean or represent? What do you want your viewers to take away from the works?

Nowadays, the factors of instability are increasingly acute. The world is in constant turmoil. The conflicts of good and the evil, barbarism and civilization, still exist. The ‘Falling Mountains’ series is what I wanted to express: the ‘unstable’ condition.

There is a famous story in Chinese mythology. A God named Gong Gong, in a power struggle with the God of Fire, hit his head on Buzhou Mountain with anger. This led to the earth shattering and the loss of universal  balance, hence the story of the goddess patching the sky. I use this theme to show my attention to the conflicts in today’s civilization, brought about by the social instability.

Sherman Lin
Sherman Lin

You can view more of Sherman Lin’s works on his ARTmine page.

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