About LIN Hung-Hsin's Artworks


The Lonely Rondo in the Digital Age

Written by Isabelle Kuo (Senior Editor, Art Investment Magazine)

“The insecurity of even the busy areas puts the city dweller in the opaque and truly dreadful situation in which he must assimilate, along with isolated monstrosities from the open country, the abortions of urban architectonics.”
— "Imperial Panorama," One-Way Street by Walter Benjamin

    In a world without a clear boundary to separate the illusion from the reality, the men and women show no emotion on their pale faces as if they are fully absorbed in their own thinking. It seems that their hair and bodies only have shape but no substance. Their faces prove their living existence, revealing an alienated atmosphere as if the lives in the digital age have already transformed the physical bodies of human beings. While everything might be changed, the only thing unchanged is the warm emotion in our hearts – which brings us pain as well as happiness.

    Strolling around the city, Lin Hung-Hsin adopts a participating but yet detached perspective to observe the self as well as the others. He transforms the subsistence of people living in the contemporary society into a fragmented fable in the cold world of alienation. The images feature the extreme opposition between the complicated and the succinct expressions, challenging viewers’ visual experience and perception. The rational composition calmly reflects the cold colors, simple and clear, inviting us to feel the hidden emotion flow – a kind of intensity which cannot be said but only be felt. Therefore, we realize that what the science-fictional scenes in Lin Hung-Hsin’s works tell is the inner self in our psychological world.

The Slowly Cultivated Process

    The men and women in Lin Hung-Hsin’s paintings all have photorealistic face combined with elements of simple and flat images as if they have been photoshopped. However, one still feel the warmth and the real touch of a handmade painting. While we stand in front of his works, the very first thing we feel is the conflicting aesthetics while the three-dimensional reality and the two-dimensional virtuality co-eixst with each other. After a while, we will be amazed by the artist exquisite skill in realistic painting.

    Taking the advantage of his sensitive and precise perceptivity, Lin Hung-Hsin never thinks of it as too difficult to pick up the brushes to capture the things he sees. Such a talent made him an outstanding student with high potentiality when he was in the college. However, it also became the block the artist tried so hard to overcome throughout his artistic practice. The young Lin Hung-Hsin knew very well that while one was pursuing the most perfect expression in realistic paintings, one might have taken the risk of redundant repetition. At that time, realistic paintings seemed to be “boring” while he experienced the difficulty that “he has the skills but without knowing what to paint.” After he was discharged from the military service, Lin Hung-Hsin stepped into the advertising design industry and became an established figure in such a competitive field. Advertising design offered him a more comfortable life. Throughout the military service and the career as an advertising designer, Lin Hung-Hsin had stopped painting for five straight years. He did not feel particularly sorry about the experience. “It is just too cliché that I don’t have to remember it,” he said with a smile on his face. However, it did not mean that he lost the passion to paint. Quite the opposite, his desire for art-making became stronger and stronger. Finally, he decided to continue his studies at the age of 24. He was working during daytime, and studying in the Graduate Program of Fine Arts at National Taiwan University of Arts after work. He explored various kinds of art forms such as video and installation, but he never picked up the brushes, refusing to be regarded as a “realistic painter” for that the exquisite skills might have brought him applause and awards but it would ever fulfill his desire for art.

    During the same period of time, Lin Hung-Hsin saw Gary Hill’s masterpiece Tall Ships (1992) in the exhibition Unfolding Visions: Gary Hill selected works 1976-2003 at The Museum of Modern Art, Taipei. It was in a long dark corridor. Once the sensor sensed any viewer’s presence, the projection installation would be activated to show distant, motionless figures who approach and then withdraw. Lin Hung-Hsin saw someone walking toward him from the end of the corridor. While the image of the figure finally stood face to face to gaze at him, Lin was amazed and shocked. “It was the power of the image,” the artist recalled, “and I was thinking at that moment – a good work of art should have such a powerful intensity.”

    Viewers might feel the pressure created by Tall Ships since Gary Hill puts viewers at a position that he or she will be directly looked at by someone else within a very close distance. Although that “someone else” is just a virtual figure, people still feel the uneasiness as they fully expose themselves in front of the other. Therefore, they have to examine their psychological state while being looked at. For most people, to face the true self is the scariest thing in the world. For Lin Hung-Hsin, what he feared the most was to be framed by the concept of realistic paintings as a skillful painter with no personal style.

    The truth is that Lin Hung-Hsin indeed has wonderful skill in realistic painting, and painting is always his favorite way to express himself. The various art forms he has explored open up the horizon of Lin Hung-Hsin’s artistic concept. Although he spent more than ten years with “video image” as an advertising designer, he knew very well that the layers and the depth created by oil paints as well as the warmth and the intimacy delivered through the brushes would never be replaced by video image or any other kinds of materials. In the year of 2003, Lin Hung-Hsin started to work on sketches, and not until 2008 did he return to his canvas. After all this time, painting still became his ultimate destination. This time, however, he combined the solid skill in realistic painting and the accumulated experiences in video image to provide a social observation with great insight, through which he establishes\d his own unique artistic vocabulary.

Some Thinking the Internet Age

    From the work The Flâneur, which was first published at National Taiwan University of Arts in 2011, to the solo exhibition A Place to Turn Around held at Liang Gallery, the existence and the psychological condition of human beings in a highly urbanized and digitalized society have always been the focus of Lin Hung-Hsin’s artistic practice. During the first half of the 20th Century, the development of a city was following the step of capitalism. As an intellectual, Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) brought up the idea of “flâneur,” which refereed to a group of people who observed and documented the urban phenomenon, through which they came to the realization, took participation in, or fought against the urban phenomena as well as the crowds. They tried to find a position for themselves in the city to practice their cultural belief. Borrowing the concept of “flâneur” from Walter Benjamin’s works, Lin Hung-Hsin has created his own “flâneur” as a character who observe the self and the social structure one’s living within from a perspective which is both intimate and alienated.

    Culture is where the flâneur’ world surrounds. The flâneur lives in the crowd, within the society constituted by the crowd, but he does not belong to the crowd. The flâneur in Walter Benjamin’s times explored the city to provide observation and thinking. In our times, however, the traces of the flâneur exist not only in the real world but also the virtual world of cyberspace. As what the artist’s self-reflection in the works MAP-I and MAP-II suggests, we are too busy receiving overloaded information of triviality, filtering messages, and making endless choices. Our minds can never be at rest. They wander along the digital paths as if they are lost in a city map.

    Having been devoted to the advertising industry for year, Lin Hung-Hsin was always surrounded by the most updated information in the capitalist society to survive in such a competitive field. Unlike most of the artists who usually lack of the practical experience, making a living in the advertising industry allowed Lin Hung-Hsin to experience the true nature of humanity as well as the reality of the society. Therefore, his paintings seem to be more sincere without any forced emotions to be expressed, revealing the artist’s compassion based upon the profound realization of humanity. In the work Hovering over the City, Lin Hung-Hins turns himself into several travelers in the city, wandering about the city in the most fantasized way one can hardly imagine. Through their bizarre but yet humorous behaviors, these travelers make themselves be part of the city life. Although they stay in the same space, they walk around without being influenced by each other. Because of them, the once hard-and-cold city can be perceived in a more imaginative way.

The Hidden Emotion Flow

    The figures in Lin Hung-Hsin’s paintings always have white faces, while their real skin colors have been covered. We can neither see the warmth of the skin nor each figure’s personal characteristic. “I make them like Noh actors who either paint their faces white or wear masks to cover up their emotions and personality so that they can be fully absorbed into the characters they are performing on stage,” says the artist. These figures not only reflect the artist’s true self but also anonymously represent the inner thoughts of all men and women. He further explains that “I asked the models to paint their faces white because I wanted them to perform someone else.” Lin Hung-Hsin has erased the unnecessary details and the over-exaggerated facial emotions while working on the composition. The inner emotion flow thus seems to be even more intensified beneath the quiet appearance.

    In the work A Place to Turn Around I, a man is embracing his knees to keep a self-protective position which also reveals his vulnerability. The image is so real that our emotions have emerged to create the déjà vu experience. The hands of man are as red as blood, as if they have witnessed the endless suffering of life. He squats down at one end of the diving board, high above the churning water, and the diving board bends under the weight. We can almost imagine that once the man moves a little bit, even with an attempt to turn around, he might lose his balance and fall from the board. Even if he successfully stands up, turns around, and walks toward the other end of the diving board, he still cannot step onto a solid platform but only two curve lines with no the substantial existence. There is no safer decision to make. Should he take the risk of falling to turn around, or should he just jump into the deep water? Or, should he stay there at the end of the diving board, waiting for the small possibility that the vulnerable wings on his back might help him to fly away? It is the moment before “something happens.” The man in the painting face the dilemma all by himself, and his eyes in the shadow reveal his helplessness. Everyone is the wanderer in the world with one’s own story to tell. However, we are not alienated from the emotions expressed in A Place to Turn Around I. There is moment like this in our life that there is nowhere for us to walk toward and there is nowhere for us to turn back. No matter whether others care about it or not, there is no one but ourselves to decide the next step and to take responsibility of it.

    As a flâneur in the city, Lin Hung-Hsin also observes the contradiction of humanity. In the painting Queen of the Night, the girl’s pleated neckline is decorated in an old European royal style, and she is wearing feathered hair ornament. She looks at viewers with pride and confidence, revealing her self-acknowledged elegant. However, the pleated neckline made of folded white paper shows her falseness, turning her conceitedness into a ridiculous and yet vulnerable joke. The series paintings in the shape of the conversation window, on the other hands, visualize the artist’s fantasy about the modern life with black humor. In Firework for Tomorrow, the spark from the top of the woman’s head is helplessly extinguished by a shower head coming from nowhere. In Babel, the artist questions the so-called “progression” – living in a world with higher-and-higher buildings being built, will our effort and pursuit become the unbearable burden to us?

    Walking on a fine line between the qualities of video image and handmade painting, Lin Hung-Hsin adopts images expressed in a contemporary language to describe the society in the contemporary age and to reflect the existence of a digitalized life. Through the cold colors and the alienated composition, the artist keeps the warmth of humanity. He not only explores his inner desire but also hides himself in the crowd to observe the nature of humanity in a contemporary society. On his canvas is the world created by the artist with various fantasies, serving as a temporary getaway from the reality. Between the real and the virtual in our contemporary life, Lin Hung-Hsin’s works indeed reflect the contradiction, the unrestraint, the loneliness, the persistence, and the everlasting gentleness hidden deeply inside human’s heart.