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ARTIST INTERVIEW SERIES: Lynn Li and traditional Chinese painting

Chinese ink painting on paper or silk has a long rich history. But when Lynn Li picks up the brush, there is a somewhat contemporary feel to her work.

She blends in techniques and methods from other styles of painting in order to give her pieces a unique feel, one that still honours her heritage but also tries to find new ways of expression.

“I always used the Chinese painting color and ink medium,” Li says. “But I am now trying to combine more Western art elements into my paintings.”

Li says that Chinese painting dates at least as far back as 619 BCE. However, it gained significant prominence during the Sung Dynasty (960–1279 CE) when it became a means of expressing ideas of morality and nature. 

The use of painting to express nature is something that still resonates with Li.

“As an artist, my goal is to keep up the Chinese traditional paintings together with the ambition to influence more people to love nature and all living creatures as well as the enlightenment of Zen to feel a better sense of the virtue of life,” she says.

Within the traditional style, there is a delicate nature to the finished work. Today, Chinese paintings are normally done on Xuan paper made from natural fibres such as bamboo or hemp.

Similar to watercolour, the paint is absorbed by the paper, which gives the colours a very translucent feel.

“The Chinese brush can be loaded with two or three colours at one time for variation and richness.”

In doing so, colour blending can be achieved even when the paint or ink is still on the brush.

Through her use of Western artistic elements and techniques, she finds this message carries further. While still appearing as traditional Chinese ink paintings, they become more accessible to a wider audience.

In particular, Li points to modern Western abstract painting as a source of inspiration that blends well with Chinese painting, what she refers to as “a harmonious combination.”

She strives to learn, to explore what painting and art means to other cultures.

“I like to find beauty and inspirations in other people’s work, and I think this is a way to keep myself learning more and to progress faster.”

By Nathan Durec


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