© linyilin 2018

Exchanges on the Shanghai Bund

Chen Tong

For a long time, people had been puzzled by the material of "brick" which repeatedly appeared in Lin Yilin’s works, and labeled it as his signature as well as a facet of the Big Tail Elephant group. The main reason for this perception is not due to the frequency in which bricks appear in Lin’s work, rather he would mix bricks with other found materials, such as money, water, television and bicycles, etc. His bodily interventions deconstruct the immutability of bricks and walls and transform their inherent characteristics. As a result, both bricks and walls are converted into materials with respect to the language of painting. What is different here is that Lin simultaneously holds both function and ownership. However, Hou Hanru’s analysis of Lin Yilin’s early work changed such propriety: by incorporating the brick wall for his work, Lin "develops a specific strategy to question and negotiate with the relationship between people and the changing environments.” Hou’s judgment finally described an apt image of the Big Tail Elephant group: In China, mainly in the south, they are the observers and thinkers on the abnormalities of economic development, as well as the practitioners effecting responses and artistic exchanges with the same aim. 

Sociology is undoubtedly one direction of the collective contribution of the Big Tail Elephant group. Lin is no exception. In Lin’s artwork, we may discern clearly the various responses and changing strategies which focus on reality versus the contingency of time. Moreover, what deserves our attention is that all his artworks utilize the use of body - the artist's own body and that of others. Therefore, the core-piece of The Result of 1000 Pieces (1994) typifies an image of Lin: Lin is standing in an empty hole of a brick wall. Perhaps we don’t need to elaborate further  on  this image.  We  prefer to believe that the image  suggests