I first became aware of Amy Lin’s work almost exactly ten years ago, having reviewed one of her first exhibits in the area at the Heineman-Myers Gallery in Bethesda in 2007. Lin’s hand-colored penciled dots were a huge success then, generating widespread fascination with her technique—hundreds of small circles in curving strings with little tail-like curling ends that “wowed” viewers. A good deal of the commentary about her work at that time tended to focus on the amazing number of dots, and was based on incredulity that anyone could be that patient and that skilled to produce those large works on paper. In my review I asked the questions “does this emphasis do it justice? If there were nothing more of interest here than the dazzlingly meticulous way they were made, would they really be worth looking at?” My own answer to those questions was that once past the level of “how amazing,” there is much to be seen and thought about here, particularly in terms of the artist’s self-expression in their creation.
Since 2007, Lin has had more than 13 solo exhibits in cities both here and in Asia, and been granted residencies in Tokyo and Singapore where she was able to interact with local artists. Lin’s own Taiwanese background is relevant to the character of her work, the curving lines and the meditative character of her practice being connotive of Far East Asian art and philosophy in general and Chinese calligraphy in particular—an art which is not simply mechanical, but deeply meditative and spiritual. Technically, Lin began creating forms with cut layers of paper, combining these with painted and drawn lines and marks in exquisitely minimal compositions, generally on a smaller format. The simplicity of her forms, which nevertheless fill the fields of her compositions in a remarkably compelling visual manner, is fundamental to the strength of her work and can be seen as the thread of continuity through its recent development.
Most of the works in the current exhibit were directly inspired by the artist’s experience of and with her new baby, particularly her close observation of the child’s emerging visual sense. In her words, she “offers a view through a baby’s eyes, glimpses at first tiny and new, which eventually evolve into sophisticated patterns” and recognizable forms. In a similar way, Lin’s works, beginning with basic marks and colors, are built up, layered and become increasingly complex. They are grouped by a kind of journaling of various actions, thus with more allusive content than her previous work might have had. For example, there’s a series titled Little Marks, Day 1 to Day 7, these being perhaps the most colorful, baby-like and playful of all the series. They are composed of multilayered paper with cut circles revealing colored forms beneath and tiny handprint-like marks and flowers above. Among my favorites were the works in which the cutting results in three-dimensional forms peeling above the surface, again revealing layers and colors deep within. Of these, the series Floating Down to Me was inspired by the experience of sitting under a tree in early fall while leaves began to fall, floating softly down to Kobie’s surprise and fascination. The compositions themselves don’t describe this experience—the artist related it to me. But there is something extremely delicate and mysterious about these pieces with their narrow curves and swirling shapes that open into cuts revealing a bottom layer of greens and browns that could carry that meaning in an abstract way. These are contemplative and imaginative works, little worlds inside worlds, and their outward simplicity is deceptive.
Some of the works feature more line drawing on the surface layer, with openings that reveal further drawings and openings beneath. One of these, First Breaths is beautifully subtle, with droplet forms and blue lines that suggest water and air bubbles. Once again, without specific narrative, these compositions tell stories that take place in the silent interaction between viewer and art work. Photographic reproduction fails to capture the strength of these three-dimensional drawings. You have to encounter them first hand to perceive their depth and the artist’s creative sensibility.
baby thoughts is on view through April 15, 2017 at Addison/Ripley Fine Art. The gallery is located at 1670 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington DC 20007. Reach the gallery by phone at 202.338.5180 or visit them online at www.addisonripleyfineart.com
Gallery Hours are as follows: Tuesday – Saturday: 11am to 5:30pm and by appointment