Lin & Lin Gallery Compared Three Chinese Artists, Each Connected to the Diaspora

Mar 31, 2016 11:37PM

In 2011, The Economist reported that more Chinese people live outside mainland China than French people live in France. The Chinese diaspora—and the cultural role of these so-called “overseas Chinese”—is of particular importance to Lin & Lin Gallery. A recent selection of their works felt right at home in China’s most international city, Hong Kong.

With locations in Taipei and Beijing, Lin & Lin Gallery represents a mixture of Chinese artists, some of whom reside abroad, others who live and work in China. The gallery’s booth at Art Basel in Hong Kong 2016 featured a range of works by three artists: Yun Gee (1906–1963), Sanyu (1901–1966), and Da-Yu Wu (aka Wu Dayu, 1903–1988.)

The three artists may have been contemporaries who shared a preference for oil paint and crayon, but Sanyu and Yun Gee spent most of their lives outside China. Sanyu was born in Sichuan and went on to study in Japan, then live in Paris and New York; he only returned to China for a short period when his brother passed away in 1938. Sanyu’s still lifes, nudes, and landscapes certainly show the influences of his time and place, from the lush A Nude Lady Lay on A Chair to the elegant Fruits (circa 1930).

Similarly, Yun Gee was born in a village near Canton and moved to San Francisco at 15; he went on to become an avant-garde painter, living and working in California as well as Paris and New York. He never saw his mother again after he left China, but Yun Gee nevertheless maintained ties to his cultural background: He played several traditional Chinese instruments and was an active member of San Francisco’s Chinese-American community. Still, his Portrait of Man with Bow Tie (1926), rendered in charcoal with ink wash, speaks less of his personal heritage and more to the glamour of the roaring ’20s in the United States.

It’s relatively easy, then, to spot paintings by Da-Yu Wu, the one artist in this trio who, for the most part, stayed in China. He studied in Paris as a young man, but afterward returned, co-founding the National Hangzhou Arts Academy in 1928 and becoming dean of its Western painting department. Compared to the work of his contemporaries, Untitled-31 and Untitled I-115 are dark and chaotic, evocative of struggle. Though these works are at odds with paintings by some of his contemporaries, they’re nevertheless crucial aspects of the same multifaceted cultural shift.

Bridget Gleeson

Lin & Lin Gallery’s booth at Art Basel in Hong Kong 2016 was on view Mar. 24–26.

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