Zhi Lin is a Chinese 2D artist. Lin’s experience with China’s Cultural Revolution gave him an interest in political art. He lived in a Chinese town torn by civil strife. Lin states that he did not originally want his work political, and instead his work transformed after the Tiananmen Square massacre. As Lin said "I tried to find art for art's sake and to stay away from the intervention of the communist government. Society should leave us alone: that was the argument."
Early life and education
Zhi Lin’s career as an artist began in the China National Academy of Fine arts where he earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts in traditional Western and traditional Chinese painting. In 1987, Lin attended the Slade School of Fine Art at University College, London where he later achieved his Master of Fine Arts.
Five Capital Punishments in China (2003)
Lin's most political and dramatic piece, Five Capital Punishments in China, reflects a dramatized interpretation of Chinese brutality during the Tiananmen Square massacre. The work features five 12 x 7 foot paintings on canvas and ribbon, each with an interpretation modern day executions: Flaying, Starvation, Decapitation, Drawing and Quartering, and the Firing Squad. Lin incorporates Chinese officials publicly torturing/killing their victims in a crowded gathering with astounding detail and accuracy.
Five Capital Punishments in China, was not only skillfully executed, but also painstakingly arranged. Costumes were purchased via online stores as well as Chinese markets. He first made thumbnail sketches of all the different arrangements he envisioned for the punishments. After selecting which arrangement he felt strongest, Lin sketched a detailed drawing of the scene on paper. Each 12 x 7 foot painting was then completed by applying watercolor paint to the mixed media projects, except for the Drawing and Quartering which was solely charcoal. Finally, each work was screen printed on the large Chinese scrolls.
Names of the Unremembered: Transcontinental (2009)
A more recent work by Zhi Lin, Names of the Unremembered: Transcontinental, focuses on 19th racism geared towards Chinese immigrant workers. Lin projects a movie of two trains coming together on a 6.5 x 10 foot painting of the Transcontinental Railroad. The viewer hears train whistles blowing and sees the flag near the train station shake in the wind. This incorporation of movement suggests that the movie projection of the two trains is a living embodiment of the Transcontinental.
Conversely, Lin’s backdrop in Names of the Unremembered: Transcontinental is a colorless painting of a rocky foreground, the Transcontinental Railroad tracks, and the desert background. On the hundreds of rocks that precede the tracks, Lin painted a Chinese immigrant worker’s name in red. Red, a symbol of blood, suggests that the lives of the workers were sacrificed in making the Transcontinental Railroad. The stones and the landscape are white, alluding to the desert scene as a white Chinese funeral. The somber painting is meant to offset the moving train projection and create a feeling of death and mourning.
- The Seattle Times | Seattle Times Newspaper. 22 Apr. 2009 <http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/entertainment/2001827972_visart02.html>.
- "| Zhi Lin." Gage Academy of Art, Seattle. 21 Apr. 2009 <http://www.gageacademy.org/artists/?page=instructors&i_id=72>.
- Lin, Zhi. "Zhi Lin Summer 2006." Interview. Per Contra Archives. June & july 2006. 24 Apr. 2009 <http://www.percontra.net/3zhilin.htm>.
- Lin, Zhi. Lecture. Fleming Law Building, University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder. 7 Apr. 2009.