採訪 柯汝同 / 記錄整理 陳怡樺
林答：抽象畫根據蒙德利安(P.Mondrian)的定義可分為兩種：抽離(Abstraction)與創造(Creation) 。最早的抽象畫是由抽離著手，這種抽象是由畫家依其主觀「去蕪存菁」，康汀斯基如此。蒙德利安的演化也是依樹林的形象簡化成弧度不大的弧線而進入方格與原色的純抽象。包括馬勒維奇(K.Malevish)的絕對主義(Suprematist)也是由立體派發展出來的，但這種「創造」一旦由這些先驅者開拓出來之後就已卓然獨立。後繼者大可不必再依賴抽離的過程而直接進入「創造」的領域。後來的抽象表現主義(Abstract Expressionism)和「繪畫性抽象以後的抽象」(Post-Painterly Abstraction)的大部份畫家都是循第二種方式來創作的。
Interview with Lin Chin-Lin
Interviewer: Tom Curry
Recorder: Chen Yi-Hwa
Nearly 10 years ago the Editor in Chief at Verve urged me to seek an interview with the abstract painter, Oliver Lin, who was already well known in Taiwan, at least in artistic circles. Despite a strong strategic introduction provided by my boss, Mr. Lin politely declined. He never gave interviews, he told me, but he did invite me for a cup of coffee at his atelier. We met there in a mountain village high above Taiwan’s rugged Pacific coast, and we talked about music, nature, religion, about art in general, but not about his art. After years of similar encounters we finally had the conversation that follows here. It took place after we had independently moved to Canada. We sat in his Victoria study with the recorder going and began talking about one of his paintings that hung there on the wall.
Curry: The color black seems to be the starting point for this painting; did black in any way reflect your mood or personality during that period [the late 90s]?
LIN: I know in general the color black reflects pessimism, loneliness, and stillness. But to me it is a very sweet color with strong affinities that easily match almost any other color. As to your implied question about my reclusiveness throughout the 80s and 90s, I resisted media attention because such reports so easily generate false impressions, false reputations, and false fame. I perceived fame as a powerfully destructive force threatening my artistic career, a force in direct conflict with my creativity. Certainly, to some extent an artist must embrace marketing, if only to provide basic necessities for his or her work, but fame also endangers the artist.
Curry: In recent years, your work has gained wide recognition in Taiwan. Has this reputation in any way inhibited your current work?
LIN: As a matter of fact, I have hardly noticed the change to which you refer. Work has occupied all my attention for many years, and I continue to focus exclusively on my work. A few people have discovered my paintings, mostly scholars and painters, more recently some critics. Indeed, so far my work is mostly collected by artists. Perhaps you will understand that I am of that tradition where merit derives from deeds not from words. I like very much to live and work in such a style: valuable encouragement from connoisseurs keeps me working diligently and indifference of the masses keeps me away from arrogance.
Curry: Yes, it is fascinating, but tell me, is this reluctance to self-promote in some way connected to your choice of abstraction as a primary mode of expression?
LIN: During the 1960s, when I was growing up, the public had already written off abstraction as an obsolete trend. Nevertheless, I was so attracted to abstraction that I really had no choice but to swim across the current of public taste. Because I trust under the depth of the current there has plenteousness for someone to dig. I knew what my work would be, and anyone fortunate enough to receive a vocation as I did must develop it, even though it grows contrary to the fluctuations of art history. I began to see wonderful abstractions embedded in music, embedded in literature, embedded in my psyche and personality. The modernist critic, Clement Greenberg, asserted that art is autonomous, conducted by a subjective but rational individual, and certainly his explanation helped bolster many great art works for a time. I now see the limitations of such principles, but I still believe that sincere artistic expression eventually reflects the wholeness, should it be allowed to blossom and bear fruit.
Curry: Critics have noted that your work contains strong elements of music, how do you feel about that analogy?
LIN: I do not structure my work to create musical effects. However, the love of music doesn’t follow that I intend to transfer the tune into space. So it is fair to say that the musical sense I cultivate spontaneously becomes part of my working process. And I see the “space” of music is really enlightening in terms of visual arts.
Curry: We know also that you are devoted to literature; do you find time to write?
LIN: Frankly speaking, I am not good writer. I suppose if people possess some skill with words when they can think clearly, they write essays of their own; when they have strong emotions, they find an outlet in prose or poetry. However, a writer requires disciplined focus, but my focus is usually elsewhere. I do write from time to time, but usually for the benefit of my other art. My writing has seldom been published. Once while working out an exhibition in Taipei Fine Art Museum I wrote a descriptive poem entitled “The Tragedy of Peon Fish.” The poem was part of that exhibition, published in the booklets distributed during the exhibition, so a few people read it in the context of that show.
Curry: As I recall, “The Tragedy of Peon Fish” later evolved into other projects.
LIN: Yes, but I did not anticipate those developments. Quite a long time after the exhibition, Yu, Neng-Sheng, a German trained choreographer visited my studio for a short time to discuss about the possibility of making a dance drama out of my story. Finally in1997, he organized a week of performances at the Taipei National Theater, and for that time we enjoyed a very interesting cooperation: I participated in the set design and provided paintings and sculptures as backdrops for the dances. This sort of activity for an artist has plenty of precedents. Picasso designed sets and provided background scenes for Valery Gergiev. In a later time, Li Tai-Xian planned to compose live music with it, but poor health prevented him from fulfilling his wish. Later in 1998, Yu, Neng-Sheng performed the drama again with his fellow dancers of Landestheater, Coburg in Germany.
Curry: I have also read and enjoyed your short story, “The Forsaken Fowl. “ You classify both these descriptive works as “creative myths.” Can you elaborate on this expression?
LIN: We tend to think of myths as events that happened in ancient times, but I think of myths as literature to express one’s will and later evolved into social morals. Each era, each individual creates myths.
Curry: How do you define “creative” in your myth?
LIN: Creative myths come from nowhere. The leading characters do not exist. However, to build an impression of authenticity and to strengthen the narrative structure, I orchestrated my plot with some elements from the mythology of ancient China.
Curry: Can you tell just a little more about the two stories?
LIN: Just two brief points will be emphasized today to avoid a sidetrack: The story of Peon Fish mirrors the effort of idealists toward salvation and they carry on their life by propagation; while The Forsaken Fowl represents artists and they are generated by means of model imitation. As you know, both these stories are on my website.
Curry: Most people, especially at first, find abstract painting difficult to understand. Can you give us some help, some kind of entry-point to your abstractions?
LIN: There are fundamental differences between the language of abstractionism and realism. The latter depicts three dimensional objects in two dimensions so that the objects depicted are recognizably similar, though of course never exactly the same. Oftentimes we use the language of realism to observe, to admire, and to evaluate natural forms in art works. In contrast, as W. Kandinsky asserted: abstraction was not based the representational properties of color and form found in nature. This lack of reference to natural form puzzles many viewers. They wish to relate abstraction to something, but abstraction resists such treatment.
Curry: Then can you describe in some way the content of an abstract painting?
LIN: Before I elaborate on your question further, I would first like to give a brief art history to enable you to trace back. Been influenced by optics science the Impressionists aimed to represent light rather than the object itself. This first step marks the beginning of the path to abstraction. When Cubism and Fauvism emerged, artists broadened their range to more than natural forms and colors. However, with the advent of Symbolism to broaden the spiritual scope, abstract painting truly arrived.
Curry: Many viewers notice that abstract paintings seem sometimes to conceal natural forms. How do you account for such responses?
LIN: Piet Mondrian defined Abstract painting into two categories namely
“Abstraction” and “Creation.” The early abstract painting was dominated by “Astraction” alone. Artists leading by Kandinsky abstracted the desired natural forms. Mondrian also started his evolution from “Abstraction.” His various studies of trees still contain a measure of representation. As the years progressed and based on “Creation”, the short curves changed into a grid of vertical and horizontal black lines and the three primary colors. Even Kasimir Malevish, the Suprematist, developed from Cubism like Mondrian. But the path from “Abstraction” to “Creation” is not necessary for all followers. For once “Creation” was set in place by the forerunners, one can go directly to this independent realm as the Abstract Expressionists and Post-Painterly Abstraction artists did.
Curry: If painting departs from the natural, then what values does it retain?
LIN: Let’s not talk about spiritual value. Spiritual value is too difficult and personal. But the functional value of Abstraction is obvious. Earlier I mentioned how representation simulates three dimensional objects in two dimensions. Abstract painters insist that dot, line, plane and color can be independent elements from nature, just as music does not have to resemble sounds that occur in nature even the program music. Diverging from natural objects in no way degrades the artistic act. The contributions of Bauhaus school have already recognized by the world. Many distinguished abstract artists made contribution to Bauhaus and W. Kandinsky was among them. At this stage, art is no longer a business to copy the nature or artificial objects. On the contrary, art becomes inspirational source of craft.
Curry: As a person born in the East who incorporates western ideas and western media for creative activity, do you have any difficulty crossing the gulfs of thought that separate these two great cultural traditions?
LIN: The roots of abstraction run deep in ancient China, though of course there are some differences between Western and Eastern abstraction. We didn’t influence the West even several abstract artists took advantage of our calligraphy to enrich their works. To say we exerted no influence over modern trend doesn’t follow that our culture is too faint to build. In my personal opinion, Chinese culture can be well developed in the frame of human culture.
Curry: During the 12-year period from 1987 to 1989, all your paintings employ symmetrical forms. Why is that?
LIN: In my earlier exploratory years, around 1976, I was often puzzled: Why could I not develop my own style. I observed that somehow my work always seemed to me derived from some prior artist. I was wondering if art comes from one’s spiritual inner why many art works show outer sameness. I struggled with reluctance until 1983 when I perceived the true essence of “Automatism” and I realized that my problem came from a persistent habit of the “Eye-Heart-Hand” chain reaction. In my case, Automatism is a fatal way to free myself from this impediment. So, for a long period, I often worked in darkness to avoid the said persistence. In 1987, the circumstances not allow me to do the same so I began using a random and symmetrical shaping to enable my spiritual inner to flow out naturally. Long time after this period I tried several times to break away from symmetry, but whenever I did, I felt insecure with the lack of balance in the painting. A friend suggested that this dependence on symmetry reflected my breathing exercises because air flow is always symmetrical. However, I cannot be sure and it left unproven till now.
Curry: Later though, in your series of paintings you called, “Gaze into Life”, the symmetrical shapes disappeared, why is that?
LIN: I think perhaps this series simply did not require symmetry for most of the paintings depicted contents of the poem.
Curry: Does this series have any special meaning to you?
LIN: This series was a milestone in my growth, as well as an extension of my concern for time in my earlier series. You can probably observe my attitude shifting from pessimism toward optimism marked by extended openness and a composed attitude toward life. The last several stanzas of the poem reads ,
Through the spiritual trail on and on,
terminal darkness is appointed that I know
Now I could smile and say:
Life plays the game with loss and gain
Through freshly downhill all the way
final expiration is fated that I see
Now I could grin and shout:
Life writes songs with tune and rest.
I reached this state through strong belief in God himself.
Curry: Are you a Christian?
LIN: Yes, but we depend on redemption rather than penance.
Curry: Can you talk about what directions your work might take in the future?
LIN: If god gives me more time, I would like to do projects that are larger in scale.
Curry: You do this out of a market-oriented purpose?
LIN: No, I just choose the exact opposite. I never create for the market, and as you can see, my work is hardly fashionable.
Curry: Are your creations mostly based on some sort of “inspiration”? Or do you believe in “talent”?
LIN: I believe in creative inspiration, but I also believe that inspiration can only be attracted through activity. Therefore I seek inspiration through hard work. As to talent, my definition may be a little different from many others. I believe talent is not a matter of sensitivity to color or sound; these skills we gain through study. So we might say, talent is what we cannot learn. Talent should be something we have from birth, something like predisposed perseverance, innate peacefulness, or spontaneous love.
Curry : In your past you have been active in Taiwan and in Europe. This exhibition is your first solo exhibition in North America. How does it feel?
LIN: I am very glad to have this opportunity to share my work with the public. I will try to present more works with Chinese culture in the future.