Born in Yunlin, Taiwan in 1975, Lin Hung-Hsin received his MFA from the National Taiwan University of Arts.
Before being devoted to artistic practice as a full-time artist, Lin had been working as an advertising designer for almost 15 years. His paintings feature a realistic expression, but are different from the objective representation of the American photorealism. Instead, he adopts a strong subjective perspective while combining two-dimensional vector symbols and images of visual spaces with his personal experiences and illusions. In his works, he intentionally simplifies the colors and the composition. Through the objects, the symbols, the colors, and the contours in the paintings, Lin creates a connection with the realistic subjects (figures) to visualize his inner perception of the surroundings.
He borrows the character “flâneur” from Walter Benjamin’s (1892-1940) works as the main subject in his works. With the face painted with white powder and the costume corresponding to the environment, the flâneur anonymously observes the city. The “flâneur” in Lin’s paintings is a complicated self-reflection of the artist, through which the artist offers himself a temporary getaway from the reality so that he can take shelter in his subconscious self-indulgence. Through these portraits in various sizes, Lin attempts to challenge viewers’ visual experience and the way they see a painting, creating a connection beyond time and space.
Lin Hung-Hsin has participated in many art competitions and received several awards in Taiwan. In 2012 and 2016, he had solo exhibitions named “A Place to Turn Around” and “A Collection of Microcracks” at Liang Gallery. Lin’s works had been exhibited in Beijing, Shanghai, London and Singapore. He currently lives and works in Hsinchu.
If a person’s thoughts can be transformed and reflected into a virtual character, then I will call it a “flâneur,” who mixes the personal life, experience, emotion, observation, imagination, fantasy and so on. The term comes from the character “flâneur” in Walter Benjamin’s (1892-1940) works. It represents a complicated self-reflection while one wanders about the arcade, which does not exist in the reality.
The “flâneur” in my works does not wander about the Parisian arcade. Instead, it represents an attitude to anonymously observe the modern life experiences in a city without being part of it. Taipei, the city I live in, is where I start to explore the experiences as a flâneur! As an alien living in Taipei, I always find myself in a position as an observer/immigrant to observe, to experience, to fantasize, and to wander about the city. Through the need of an individual, one obtains the authority over one’s own body and soul in front of the social forces. The rapid advancement of technology creates a media effect, which is beyond an “imperial panorama” in Walter Benjamin’s word. The modern technology allows one to hide oneself in the crowd while observing or peeking around from one Internet community to another in the cyberspace – to look for a place to turn around. The flâneur is like an anonymous inspector who disguises oneself in the crowd, looking for inspiration and to collect them as the trophies to fulfill the poetry. As an observer in an alienated position, the flâneur seems to care about nothing but peek into the city with one’s great vision.
The flâneur calmly searches and observes the trend of the world with rationality. Showing no emotion on the face, the flâneur either walks around in the crowd or indulges oneself in the surrounding situations. He seems to be absent-minded, hiding himself in the crowd without a clear destination to go, but he indeed has clear thoughts. His facial expressions and movements are frozen, while his rational mind moves in various directions, alienating himself from the rest of the world as if he is a “wandering ghost” who stands high to see the city and the people living in. The seemingly absent-minded look might be the most natural state of human beings. It is the most real expression without any pretense or constraint. Once such an expression, posture, or behavior is captured and emphasized, the effect it creates can be particularly strong.
In my paintings, the depth of the space, which is commonly seen in realistic painting, has been removed and replaced with simplified two-dimensional symbols to represent the unknown space or the fantasized situation. Sometimes it reflects certain reality, which is contradictory to the delicate and rich realistic quality of the figures in the images. The conflict between the two surprisingly creates an unexpected stability and an appropriate narrative in the paintings. When we further look into the works, the space designed in the images does not exist in reality. Instead, it is an enclosed space, which combines the space of the real life and the space of the fantasy – there is no light refracted in a reasonable way. In such an enclosed space, one can only slowly float above and roam around. I have once suffered from middle ear infection, causing me ear pain. It is indeed a painful experience for me. Since the eardrum failed to vibrate in a normal way, I could hear nothing but the ringing in the ears. I was thus imprisoned in a situation with no one to intrude as if I was in a submarine diving deep in the peaceful sea. The unceasing ringing in the ears was like the deep sound created by the sonar. The only difference was that it could not transmit any message to the outside world. The sound waves hit the tympanic membrane back and forth, intensifying the isolation state from the external world. The exquisitely detailed representation attracts viewers to take a step closer as if the artist intends to capture the viewers’ “immersion” through a mirror.
The models’ faces are painted in white so that they can be de-characterized. The strange costume, which does not fit in the situation, also suggests certain quality or personality of weirdness, implying the characters’ intention to hide in the crowd while also maintaining some contradictory strangeness to represent the unnatural state. The sincere expressions are enlarged in proportion to create out-of-focus effect. It seems the characters are looking into viewers’ eyes with unnoticeable affection like a deja vu. The face no longer represents the particular “someone” but “anyone!” It is a contradictory realization that only when we remove the original identity can we really reflect the true selves. Indeed, the pretended expression of the actors is the true face of me – the face of a wandering flâneur. When it comes to the gender of the characters in the paintings, the men represent myself while the women represent the curiosity about the opposite sex hidden in everyone’s heart.
My paintings are based upon my fictional fantasy or my response to something, through which I create certain facial expression or situation. Sometimes, I start from my life experiences, what I have achieved, what I have been fantasizing while being alone, or my perspectives on my life and the surroundings. I collect these thoughts and rearrange them, making them into a narrative of the reflection of various characters. The journey of the wandering flâneur does not follow a route. He gets lost in a city and then returns to the starting point with his rational mind and the sense of direction, which he was born with.
Before I became a full-time artist, I worked as an advertising designer. I have been educated with two talents – design and realistic painting – while the co-existence between the two creates an unexpected effect. The conflict between the silence and the instant movement establishes certain harmony! The colors being used and the composition of my paintings are intentionally simplified and the large-scale blankness presents a space of infinity. I also use a great amount of two-dimensional symbols to express my supposition and my logic, to imply my worries, and to build up the connection with the realistic characters. The curve line beside the ear and the geometric color plane represent the self-enclosed status of the flâneur – with the deep drumming sound while wandering about the space. The minimalist colors and the simplified plane both construct a peaceful space, which meanwhile highlight the intensity created by the realistic subjects with its deep strong ringing sound.