Zin Lin is a Bangkok-based Chinese contemporary artist whose latest solo painting exhibition The Crowd opened at Midnice Gallery in Bangkok on May 6, 2017. In this interview, he talks about his art, what it means to be an artist in Bangkok, and how contemporary art is viewed in China.
When did you start calling yourself an artist?
I should answer this question in two ways. In my heart, perhaps from the time I was seven or eight years old, I dreamed of becoming an artist. But, according to the social values of that time, being an artist was not a good enterprise. But really, I was fearless to tell the people around me that I was an artist and was willing to pay for it for the rest of my lifetime, only at the age of nineteen. My family was against it, but I made the decision and being an artist became my fate. Not a choice. Art makes me find value in living and is as natural as breathing.
What art medium do you work with?
I choose painting materials based on the actual project. Here in Thailand, in recent years, I have been using acrylic painting on canvas. My current colors are black and white because I think black and white painting is more like Chinese calligraphy.
Why have you chosen to live in Bangkok?
This is a question a lot of Chinese journalists have asked me… I think there are many reasons. The first reason is that I wanted to change my creative environment, and secondly, I also like to feel of the “humanistic atmosphere” of Thailand.
What’s your opinion of the contemporary art scene in Thailand?
This question may make a lot of Thai artists upset, but I think that Thailand’s contemporary art is much more monotonous than contemporary Chinese art. Very few Thai artists have the spirit of exploration. At the same time, the “operating mode” of contemporary art in Thailand is very weak. There is no systematic marketing model, or a healthy capital flow and even worse, there is no internal solution to the problem.
What’s the concept of your upcoming exhibition The Crowd?
The concept of this exhibition was actually inspired from the past two years for my life. I think, feel, and create through the “one child” perspective. Trying to use the screen to show some text cannot replace the actual things, so through my paintings, I hope to achieve a better resonance with the audience. There are no answers in my paintings, but there may be my take on things, that of a child’s spiritual mind. I ask myself: “How much of this theme is sick humor. Is there any prophecy in my painting?”
When did you create the works?
I started brewing on this theme two years ago. I needed to consider the form of painting, the painting materials, and so many other issues. I kept accumulating creative material, selected the material, and interacted with my community for creative inspiration. Then, it only really took me three months of painting time.
Your style is very peculiar. Where do you get your inspiration from?
My creative form is really very special. It was in 2009 when I suddenly developed the “one child” cartoon “character” and his role. It represents the spirit of the 1980s. The “one child” image is a symbol of time, but also in my performance career, I couldn’t have done without him. As I grew up, the “one child” also grew. The most important thing is that “one child” has been thinking about this absurd world of ours and watching our generation closely.
How has your life influenced your work?
I have done a lot of work in different genres and art forms. I played rock and roll, I was a folk singer, I worked at a design company, I worked as a teacher, and I even put roadside stalls up. During this time, I met a lot of strange people who provided very good inspiration for me. No matter what I am doing, no matter what kind of people I encounter, or what happens in my life, I always tell myself that I have to look at the problem from an artistic point of view.
What is the role of the contemporary art in today’s China?
China’s contemporary art world is very diverse these days. China also provides contemporary artists with a wealth of materials while it also has a strong “gallery operation.” Bottom line, China’s contemporary art is inclusive and independent.
The opening reception of “The Crowd” was held at Midnice Gallery in Bangkok on May 6, 2017 and the exhibition was open until May 31, 2016.