Exotic Dreams and Poetic Misunderstandings

Lin Wang’s Exhibition

proj. Hubert Kielan

Exotic Dreams and Poetic Misunderstandings
Lin Wang’s Exhibition

3 March – 27 April 2017
Opening: Friday 3 March 2017, 7 pm

SiC! Gallery BWA Wrocław
9/10 Kościuszki Square

Sofia Coppola’s cult movie Lost in Translation shows subtly and implicitly two Americans stranded across the ocean, in Tokyo. Their contact with the culture of the East is often accompanied by a sense of alienation, loneliness, comicality bordering on absurdity, and above all the awkwardness which usually appears when cultures clash, between the lines.

Lin Wang is a Chinese visual artist working in porcelain, living in Norway for the past three years. Her life experience, relationships with the surroundings and participation in the social life of both countries have committed her to reflecting on differences and similarities between the two distinct cultures, as well as attempting to find in her creative work a bridge between the West and East. Growing up in China and raised on stories from the Scandinavian mythology told by her grandparents, Lin has been dreaming the exotic dreams of the Occident since early childhood. Studying the Old Continent’s history, she realised to what degree the production, export and trade of Chinese porcelain at its commercial peak, i.e. in the 17th century, influenced the mutual understanding of both cultures. It was then that the artist coined the phrase “poetic misunderstandings”, attempting to examine and juxtapose the interplay of colourful images, traditions and histories of the two distant realities. In time, the term has become rooted in her work to mean a universal cognitive process of studying dissimilarity.

Currently based in Bergen, the artist often comes back to China, where she works in close co-operation with the local porcelain masters. Exotic Dreams and Poetic Misunderstandings vol. 2 is a continuation of the artist’s quest. The exhibition was prepared specially for the purposes of the SiC! Gallery in Jingdezhen, the porcelain art and manufacturing mecca, where in the 17th century importers from Europe brought sketches and forms of tableware. The commissioned replicas of European utensils were often completely alien to Chinese ideas. Europeans would also order the traditional, famous cobalt blue images on chinaware, except the commissioned scenes were connected with domestic traditions and history. Done meticulously and with utmost care, they often became comical, distorted (the Chinese did not use perspective) representations of biblical and mythological scenes. Paradoxically though, in the eyes of the buyer, such objects were a fulfilment of exotic, romantic dreams of the Orient.

Contrary to artists of the past, Lin plays with the convention – she mixes the Chinese tradition of the cobalt blue imagery with Norway’s strongly rooted tradition of sailors’ tattoos. In Bergen, everybody is indirectly or directly connected with the sea and sailing. For me, nautical tattoos have become a medium through which I imagine life at sea says the artist. Back in the times when sea trade was not industrialised yet, working at sea required both physical and mental strength from the sailors. Visions of the ocean as an intercultural transit route were invariably connected with idealising the unknown. The exciting dreams of unexplored, unconquered lands were visualised by means of a needle and ink.

In the brave, harsh but romantic world of sailors, the tattoo is a record of adventure, experience and dream, a prophecy, a charm, a memory of sexual initiation. Its allegorical value, simplicity, linearity and the blue colour of ink, all resemble the style of the Chinese imagery. Poetic misunderstandings appear between the finesse of the Chinese porcelain and the straightforward brutality of the seamen’s tattoos, between the scale forms of European tableware and the Chinese genre scenes. Just as in Miss Hong Kong, a work in which Lin swaps female archetypes. In place of the traditional Chinese figure, a petite woman depicted with half-closed eyes and in a subservient bow, she tattoos on porcelain an erotically bent pin-up girl from a sailor’s dream, towering over the male character. In this way, she contests the Chinese canon of representing gender. The ambiguous East/West and tradition/contemporaneity relationships created by the artist bravely enter the field of visual kitsch and naivety. They engage in a witty, free dialogue about history, religion, tradition, social preferences and exotic dreams. There is no aggression or fear in them. They are records of dissimilarity and diversity. Of what cannot be told. Sometimes it is lost in translation, sometimes it is read between the lines.

A performance/feast will be held during the opening

For me, inviting people to dinner is the simplest and most pleasant form of establishing social contact. Thanks to conversation, we gain perspective which allows us to go beyond our cultural epistemologies says Lin Wang.

Curator: Dominika Drozdowska


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