“Between Emptiness” 

Lin Guocheng’s debut solo exhibition in London


Lin Guocheng


28 October, 2015 – 14 November, 2015

David Aaron
22 Berkeley Square,
Mayfair, London,
W1J 6EH.


At first glance, the literati sentimentality infused in Lin Guocheng’s mystic, surreal landscapes are reminiscent of classical Chinese landscape paintings. Yet a closer look at these otherworldly labyrinth unravels influences ranging from that of Albercht Dürer to Liu Dan, a prominent contemporary ink painter who is known for his meticulous depictions of Chinese scholar rocks.

It can be difficult to situate Lin within a particular era, whilst his subject matters and compositions are undeniably Chinese, he paints with an ink pen as opposed to a brush. In that sense, Lin is hardly a traditional ink artist. On one hand, the moisture-laden atmosphere of his landscape, the blurry, misty outline of distant mountains and the textured swirling trees are a homage to the forefathers of classical Chinese landscape paintings. On the other hand, the way the way in which he depicts the trees via the dense, repetitive lines bears clear influence of European sketches. Furthermore, his selective omission of details in certain areas and the meticulousness in others amount to an almost comic-like spontaneity. In essence, Lin’s works are free of the academic orthodoxy, which in turn afford the possibility of these mystical trees and landscapes.

The Chinese way of depicting depth and perceptions are different from that of the European traditions. There are three different types of compositions: gaoyuan (high distance), pingyuan (low distance) and shenyuan (deep distance), which are respectively: a view across a broad lowland; view from a towering mountain into the afar; and a ‘view’ past the mountains nearby into the distance. In a way, Lin inherited the way traditional landscape painters conceptualise sceneries. Sometimes, between the the trees and distant merge of a landscape, lies nothing but emptiness.

“Open the door and see the mountain II – Await to cross the creek by Feng Chaoran”
Pen and Chinese ink on paper, 150x115cm, 2015

Lin’s ‘depth’ is not found upon creating a three-dimensional space within that of a two-dimensional one via visual deception, but a different sort of depth. Each of Lin’s work encapsulates a world composed by a labyrinth of lines, through which the viewer identifies objects of familiarity. Yet the trees and the mountains in his works are never fully complete, or even ‘real’, leaving the completion of the landscape to that of our own imaginations.

It seems as though that his pensive, desolate scenes are the works of a romantic literati-poet as opposed to (strikingly) the works of an ex-computer programmer. Instead of portraying what he sees via rigid forms and  composition, he allows the lines to grow spontaneously. His trees seem temporal, forever retaining the possibility of growth.  After all, an eternity is composed entirely by temporalities. One can say that Lin is almost painting with time.

It is in the sentimental temporality of his works, where time slips away quietly amidst the whirling tree branches and the distant misty mountains, that we are reminded of something we have neglected in our daily frenzies. In Lin Guocheng’s melancholic, poetic imageries, one recalls a purer, simpler version of ourselves and the world around us.

Pen and Chinese Ink on Paper, 113cm x 128cm, 2015