Traditional Chinese painting techniques and surrealism find themselves completely at home in the works of Beijing, China based artist Alice Lin.
Alice has been drawn towards the old Chinese painting style since she was five years old. Her extremely detailed and fantastical art works come alive through interesting raw materials like rice paper and natural color pigments, and her unique work process. We had a short conversation with Alice about some of these materials and her process. Read on:
Natural Color Pigments
Could you tell us a bit about your work process?
As a painter, my process is just to feel secure within myself. I want to figure out what am I thinking about. What have I found interesting in the world around me? Then I try to make a sketch using these thoughts.
After this, I use a small-sized brush and very light ink, and copy it on Xuan paper (Chinese rice paper), which is a translucent paper. The next step is coloring, for which I dilute the colors and paint them very lightly. I usually end up painting the strokes about 20-40 times. The number also depends on the type of hue I want – dark or bright.
Finally, I wet the Xuan paper all over with alum and glue to help the pigments stabilize on the paper, and then wait for it to dry naturally. This traditional process is a little complicated, however, it gives really special results in the end.
You describe your technique as “Chinese meticulous painting”. Tell us a bit more about this particular style.
I learnt this painting style when I was child. But I have to say that currently my paintings use this as a skill but not as a concept. This is because when people in China talk about ‘Chinese meticulous painting’, it’s generally referred to the traditional styles or academic meticulous Chinese paintings. I think my painting style is completely different from that. I prefer transforming this traditional skill into a more contemporary concept.
You often combine human figure, plants and animals in your artworks in really unique ways. Has that always been a conscious effort?
I guess I have just always been comfortable with it. It’s always been about giving up control and letting your mind wander on naturally. It’s about giving up your body to the nature and to the memories of your childhood. I also always wish to share some of my own imagination with the viewers through my art.
Alice’s work process
You have also learnt calligraphy and classical poetry. How do they influence your art?
They gave me a sense of aesthetics. When I say calligraphy and classical poetry, they are all about traditional things. I can feel connected to some masterpieces in the past, like Ming or Song dynasties. The past is the bedrock. At the same time, I also enjoy the concepts of today’s world, the modern world. And then I get a sense that my one foot is always in the future.
This interview has been edited by Ida Ali.
FEATURED IMAGE CAPTION:
All the photographs have been provided by Alice Lin.©
The other images are of artworks created by Alice Lin.©