Yun Gee Where is My Mother – 1926/27
It is paradoxical that Li-lan’s paintings seem more [Asian] than her father’s. This is intriguing. One would expect that Li-lan would be more “Westernized,” having been exposed more totally to Western influences. However, this assumption is contradicted by her “visual codings.” Imagery is treated in flat, simplified terms. A sense of two-dimensional space dominates, and the all-over effect is decoratively flat, perhaps like Chinese calligraphy, though less direct, and more like scroll painting, through lacking in complex, multi-spatial levels.
In contrast to her father, she is not interested in narration, does not get involved with people or places. Her concern is with symbols from the mundane business world, and the current show is limited to postage stamp motifs.
Neither is the language the same. There is no hint of Cubism. Instead, Li-lan works with a single image, such as a postage stamp. She takes it through various stages within the perforated format of a whole sheet of stamps, much of which is devoid of stamps, leaving empty space as a possible, contemplative subject.
Li-lan Fifty-Nine 22’s – 1987
Some areas contain portions of a stamp, a fragment, such as “22,” the American Flag, or the White House, details of the work titled Fifty-Nine 22’s. A curious effect is produced, suggestive of both Pop art and Minimalism. A mundane subject, or portions of it, suddenly seem “new,” refreshingly vital and unique (How many times have you used a postage stamp, hardly noticing the image it contains?)
Li-lan Navajo Art: USA 22 – 1987
Another example is titled Navajo Art: USA 22. In this case, the pattern of a Navajo design (perhaps a blanket) is dissected and presented in separate stages, making one aware of the fascinating configuration each contains. Again, blank portions, or “negative spaces,” assist in creating an asymmetrical, counterpoint rhythm that heightens visual tensions.
Li-lan uses color registrations, usually found at the bottom of a page of stamps, to good effect. These become important pictorial devices – usually color accents at the bottom of the canvas – which set them apart from their common, “taken for granted” existence.
Perhaps one of the most unique devices employed by Li-lan is her unusual treatment of frames. At first glance one may not notice that the frames are actually painted on the canvases. They seem so three-dimensional, so real, that it is somewhat startling to find that they are painted illusions of real frames, a trompe-l’ oeil effect that gives the “semblance” a more heightened sense of reality! Each thin, illusory frame is painted in colors and tones that set off the subject to best advantage.
International Letter Writing Week, 1 – 1987 – (left)
International Letter Writing Week, 2 – 1987 – (right)
It is rewarding to see two such diverse aesthetic statements from father and daughter. Yun Gee’s Cubism takes us back to a point in time when art and science were concerned with a new examination of “reality,” a new quantum equation pointing to the future. Li-lan takes the equation further into the realm of another kind of “breakdown” of form, another kind of re-examination of the “real.” Both are valid ways of representing “reality,” much like the Theory of Complementarity in contemporary physics. The integrity of both artists comes across, respectively, in the consistent use of separate languages, each convincingly distilled and made unique by an individual vision.
For additional information on Li-lan, please visit his website at LI-LAN.COM