About LIN Hung-Hsin's Artworks


Blooming Flowers: Digital Visualization in Realistic Painting

Text/Hsing-Chih TSAI
Associate Professor of the Graduate School of Contemporary Visual Culture and Practice and the General Education Center at the National Taiwan University of Arts

繁花 17/ Over Abundance 17,91×72.5cm,油彩畫布,2022

In today’s world, an overwhelming amount of information is digitally integrated and widely used, often presented as the most contagious carrier of meaning through overloaded visual images. The habit of obtaining images of works of art from online platforms before visiting art museums or galleries to appreciate the original works has changed the way we experience art. This raises questions about the essence of artworks, such as whether they are neglected after being reproduced in large quantities or altered in the fast process of circulation. The German philosopher Walter Benjamin (1892-1940) introduced the concept of “Aura” in his influential 1936 essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction to explain works of art. He argued that a work of art should retain “its unique presence in time and space,” but the development of mechanical reproduction technology led to the disappearance of the aura of works of art. However, he also believed that this technology helped to drive the emergence of new forms of critical consciousness. In commenting on the surrealist films of the Spanish artist Salvador Dali (1904-1989), Benjamin noted that Dali incorporated elements from literature, psychology, montage, and other media to reveal the irrational desires of human beings in visually impactful ways. Dali’s films not only broke away from the framework of traditional narrative films but also expanded our perception of visual art. While Benjamin’s views on the reproduction technology of images remain relevant in explaining how art sharing is achieved to this day, it is worth noting that during his time, information was circulated through divergent means such as painting, photography, and film. Today, integrated and comprehensive digital technology has gradually shaped our perception to be more fragmented, singular, and homogeneous. Furthermore, due to the popularization and convenience of digital technology, its influence is more difficult to resist and detect. The artist Hung-Hsin Lin keenly exposes the transparent film attached to people’s perception mode by digital technology through his realistic paintings.

In Lin’s paintings, the texture of this transparent film is depicted as soft as petals, taking the form of flowers as a metaphor. It is well-known that flowers have been a common subject in art, serving as both an embellishing element and an independent theme. This has reflected changes in artistic schools, expressive techniques, and symbolic meanings over time. For example, 18th-century Dutch still-life painter Jan van Huysum (1682-1749) devoted himself to recreating the beauty of natural scenery by employing superb calm tones and soft light to highlight the endless changes in flower arrangements, inducing a sense of satisfaction for the viewer. 19th-century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) expressed his passionate emotions and primordial vitality through sunflowers in his paintings, using swirling brushstrokes and thick paint. Meanwhile, 20th-century American artist Georgia Totto O’Keeffe (1887-1986) intentionally enlarged the scale of red poppies in her paintings with close-ups, compelling the viewer to observe the world of flowers from the perspective of insects. Despite their different styles of depicting flowers, these three artists shared a yearning for a beautiful relationship between humans and nature. Natural flowers remain a prototype that artists are keen to observe, portray, and create. In contrast, Lin’s Over Abundance series depicts the alienation between humans and nature, exploring the era when digital flowers on screens are more appreciated than real flowers. This implies that the arrival of simulacra is better than the prototype, reflecting that we are trapped in the artificial environment we have created ourselves. The artist skillfully depicts the blooming red roses, yellow gardenias, and camellias using glazing techniques and soft-focus effects, creating a layered space that conveys lightness, slenderness, and lovely fluttering. However, the aesthetic pleasure of the realistic technique is interrupted by color bars, fractal residual petals, free line segments, and an ambiguous and illusory background inserted by the artist. The incorporation of these unknown elements compels the viewer to transcend mere aesthetic pleasure and reflect upon the composition, evoking a sensation akin to poor signal or over-edited photos familiar in modern times. The soft, isolated flowers in the paintings before the viewer resemble screenshots processed with special effects on smart devices. Through this method, the artist reminds us that when modern people talk about the beauty of a flower, it often refers to how it appears in a photo or video, closely linked to the era of advanced digital technology we live in. The viewer’s recognition of the flower’s shape and color in the painting does not come from a genuine understanding of natural flowers but from their digital version cultivated in an artificial and illusory environment.

French philosopher Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007) posited in his essay, The Precession of Simulacra, that the advent of computer media has overturned Plato’s understanding of the relationship between reality and simulacra. Simulacra, according to Baudrillard, can transcend mere representation and become the very precession of reality, even to the point of defining and producing it. As a result, simulacra can be more real than reality itself, creating a state of “hyperreality”. Lin’s artwork serves as a perfect example of Baudrillard’s argument, intentionally showcasing artificial flowers with vivid and cheerful colors and gestures that are ultimately fake. This prompts the viewer to embark on a journey of perception to uncover the source of their understanding. Lin’s realistic paintings reflect the technological realism of the digital age, focusing on technology as his subject matter rather than flowers. His works reveal that our familiar patterns of perception are derived from digital visualization technology development. The seemingly arbitrary color correction, photo editing, and seamless scene changes are, in reality, programmed computer imaging. However, the development of digital technology is not entirely negative, enabling people to observe intricate details of images through the zoom function and allowing for creative exploration through editing effects. According to the artist, the notion that image production using digital technology poses a threat to the value of the realistic painting is a misunderstanding, which presupposes a dual confrontation that is unwarranted. Instead of hindering its development, digital technology can enhance and expand the creative potential of realistic painting. In the case of Lin, digital technology serves as a tool for conception while he still creates with his hands and soul. Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) lauded artists as the pioneers who grasp the thoughts and new possibilities of their time, making them the best suited to understand and study new media. Lin’s Over Abundance series demonstrates that new technologies not only facilitate novel interactions in art but also inspire further reflection and application of new technologies.