The title “floating gardens” refers to the deeper inner meaning of the project. As the artist says, “I see floating gardens not only reflecting my observations of nature but also as a metaphor for our human existence within the great unknown”. Through the playful yet cohesive mixture of subject matter explored in her subtle oil paintings of landscapes, branches of cedar trees, insects, the bodhisattva Guan-Yin, scattered pearls, and her bronze sculptures including a giant rice bowl, large wooden chopsticks and a miniature installation of a garden tea party, Angela Lyn invites the viewer to engage.
Like the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, that may have been entirely mythical, Angela Lyn’s floating gardens exist only in her imagination. To gain a deeper insight into the exhibition, the viewer should be aware of the duality to which Angela Lyn frequently refers in discussions of her life and work. The ambiguity relating in particular to her Anglo-Chinese origins explains much of the appeal of the paintings and the carefully considered manner in which they are installed in the gallery.
The artist was born in England to a Chinese father, with ties to Taiwan, and to an English mother. For the first seventeen years of her life, she received a traditional English education which was followed by her first trip to Taipei to meet her extended family. This meeting had a profound effect on her, as she said, “there was something to be completed, not expected of me directly but carried within me, silently in my bloodstream: to return to the homeland…it was the ‘70s. To me, it seemed my family thought an alien had arrived. I was a floating garden.” In 2008, she made her first visit to the Lin Family Mansion and Garden in Banqiao District, New Taipei City, one of the Four Great Gardens of Taiwan. It seemed to explain many things to her, the painting of a monkey she grew up with, Chinese slippers that a relative gave to her, and the red Chinese carpet upon which her father used to lie Saturday mornings following scores of his favourite symphonies. It is no wonder that this material rose to the surface of her memory and became the subject matter of her paintings and sculptures.
It is not only the significance of family dynamics and history that impact Angela Lyn’s work, but also the international artistic movement to which she has been exposed. She refers to her observations of nature as a “search for common denominators in a complex world: images that connect on an essentially human level regardless of one’s origin. Places of visual respite to which one might return over time, furthering a sense of relationship with what one sees”. A momentous event in the direction her art was to take was in 1998, in the discovery of her studio overlooking Lake Lugano. It is there she began to develop a particular approach to painting that has reached fulfilment in her recent work.
Angela Lyn paints what she sees depicting the presence of things without an obvious narrative. As the painter suggests: “a painting, is a magical means to bring together the ambiguous aspects of how one perceives reality.” The view from the windows of her studio in Lugano looks onto several magnificent cedar trees that have become a kind of visual ground bass to her exploration of other thematic material in her paintings. The cedar tree continues to be a recurrent theme in her work. “In a time where we seem to be constantly short of time, I am drawn by the time it takes to paint these trees: every needle has to be found, lived and loved into place. Furthermore, I am intrigued by the wealth of attributes associated with cedar trees: incorruptibility, longevity, healing and solitude, recognised not only in Europe and the Middle East but also in Asia.”
The works on show equally reflect the artist’s attention to the “floating gardens of memory and imagination, the interior response to things that float in one’s mind. Bring it to a level of presence and reality, perhaps to open the viewer’s sensibility to his or her own floating gardens.” From Angela Lyn’s carefully rendered depictions of things that she sees and handles on a daily basis there emerges a self-portrait but of her mind rather than her appearance.