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" Tender is the Night Lin Bao Ling Solo Exhibition "2018-10-20—12-02

The Night World-Lin Bao Ling's Nightscape Paintings


Written by Chen Kuang Yi


Professor and former Director of Department of Fine Arts at National Taiwan University of Arts

Let’s not discuss if “night” is one of the most important themes in painting. It is undeniable that it has a place in the history of painting. The color of the night strengthens night’s dramatics, leaving the tragic of tragedy with fewer places to hide. However, black is not the only color of the night: without white, black cannot be brought out; without brightness, darkness cannot be brought out; without the dawn, the dark night cannot be brought out. This is precisely because the blackness of the night is so dramatic, it is given deep symbolic meanings in literary works- the dark night of the crucifixion of Jesus contrasts with the dawn of his resurrection. The dark night is also the moment of the rational compromise and the soar of subconscious and imagination: From Nyx, the goddess of night, giving birth to a pair of twins, Sleep and Death, in Greek mythology, to the night views painted by the painters, Francisco Goya and Henry Füssli, which are filled with chaos and nightmares of being threatened by death.

However, the color of the night is really not black. Just looking at those few brilliant pieces of The Starry Night by Vincent Gogh or Edvard Munch, which use many bright and bold blue, green, red, yellow, purple, even white, makes this an open book. Of course, however, to Caspar David Friedrich, the color of the night in his painting, Nacht im Hafen, is countless brown hues changing delicately. Furthermore, the charms of the night is also in the alternation of the sun and the moon: Alphonse de Lamartine, a Romanticism poet, thinks “after the sun offers his empire to the pale queen of night (la pâle reine des nuits)”, poetic works unfold! Therefore, a moonlit night is a theme countless artists prefer, even though from then on, the scenery of a moonlit night gradually changes from barren hills and dark nights, and the reflections of the quiet nature in the water to the brightly-lit, prosperous sleepless towns, which are full of tall buildings, painted by Impressionist painters. The pleasures of the metropolitan night are heavy traffic, the high life, songs and dances, endless liveliness and noiseness. Of course, there are also artists like Edward Hopper who portrays the night city as bored stiff, unlively and lonely.

Lin Bao Ling who is deeply attracted by the night view, painted the first night view in 2003 when he is still learning in the college. For more than ten years, he is still “feeling and thinking” in this abundant and remote theme, trying to find more possibilities. He who is good at ink wash paint, oil paint and acrylic paint, thinks about the materials first when thinking about the night view: he researches and develops the method of using the multi-media vellum as a vector, making the water-filled acrylic paints flow on non-water absorbing translucent vellum, yet is different from the washing and spreading effects of traditional ink wash paints. He uses the transparency of vellum to paint on both sides, making the layers of the paints more abundant. The stacking of paints, thick painting and scraping of brushes, flowing of stains, the gaps of the intersection of blocks of colors, large amounts of dripping, spraying or painted color dots of different sizes, blurs and threatens the thin and fragile shapes, portrayed or spatulated with detailed brushes, creating moist feelings like the rain and fog or overcast skies. Cool color series of green, purple, gray chant cool nights like water and its melancholy; however, warm colors of brown, yellow, reddish brown, black write the night’s dimness and mysteriousness. He prefers long horizontal axis, the people and scenery are all very small, framing is diversified and exceptionally lofty and vast. It is like running the wide-angle lens set up at an elevated place. His night views are alternations of light and darkness, the bright moon rode high in the sky, the twinkling lights, the lights of all households, but the feelings of liveliness and noiseness are often swallowed by the silly and stationary crowds who seem to be mobbing something, condense, become familiar and unfamiliar.

However, besides Taipei’s night views, he creates another series of work, The Nameless Little Guy, that seems to have a totally different tonality at first glance. This little guy in comic style has existed since 2006. He is nameless, naked and defenceless. He has dark circles. He has no pupils and fingers. He is “the child in Lin Bao Ling’s heart”. He is the projection of the painter’s self-consciousness, shows the lonely, fragile and susceptible inner world beneath the strong appearance of people, and the survival situation of contemporary humans. Even though the materials used are not as special as the Nocturne series, the element connecting two groups of works is still “night”: the little guy may be like the Wanderer above the sea of fog painted by Caspar David Friedrich,  he may be overlooking the dark blue night and the cotton-like sea of clouds lonelily, or he may be travelling over mountains and rivers in forest and wilderness in the dark night alone in danger; he even drinks a jar of hot tea with the Grim Reaper in tears. The little guy, this narrative element, adds stronger emotions to the night view, showing the soul of Romanticism, telling the night’s loneliness and threats, and the endless imagination it provides.

 Whether it is the Nocturne series or The Nameless Little Guy, Lin Bao Ling faces off “night” this special theme in the painting history in all these works. He not only knows the colors, symbols, elements of the night well, but also can give them epochal character, local characteristics, individuality. The night he paints is noisy, yet it can also bring us away from noise; it is realistic, yet it also brings us into imaginations; it is quiet, yet it also makes us feel it is crisis-ridden; his night threatens us, yet it also protects us; his night inspires us, and leads us to rediscover the night's endless charms.