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Painting Relief

Painting Relief
oil and aluminum on canvas
101.5 x 101.5 cm. (40 x 40 in.)
Executed in 1965 – 1966
Marlborough Fine Art, London
Gallery Withofs, Brussels
Gallery Veranneman, Brussels
Veranneman Foundation, Kruishoutem
Galerie Seghers, Ostend
Acquired from the above by the present owner

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Lot Essay

“White is the most mundane of colours, and the greatest of all colours; it is the most colourless and the most colourful.”– Richard Lin

Painting Relief by Taiwanese artist Richard Lin is one of the most iconic series that represents the pinnacle of his artistic oeuvre. He combines sculptural concepts with the language of painting, illustrating three dimensionality on a flat surface while conjuring multiple visual illusions through a precision of colour and geometry. By doing so, Richard Lin created a style of painting that was unique in art history.

Completed between 1965 to 1966, the present lot is a classic piece among Lin’s early series of Painting Relief. Lin coats the canvas in layers of white oil paint and aluminium block to create multiple squares of varying shapes, he then carefully juxtaposes them creating a great sense of visual depth, adding so much dynamism to the painting. Upon close inspection, each square on the canvas exist on its own plane, and the spatiality of every level is clear and palpable. Lin's transcendence of two-dimensional space on the canvas draws close connections to another minimalist artist from the 20th century – Lucio Fontana. While both artists "sculpt on the canvas", they did so in diametrically-opposed ways: Fontana broke through the limits of the flat surface by cutting open the canvas to reveal the depth underneath; in contrast, Lin chose to build upwards and delicately compose layers on top of the canvas to give his works physicality and rich spatial relationships. Similar to Fontana's works, Lin's paintings go beyond the traditional canvas surface and expanded the possibility of the art form, consequently he created a visual and tactile multi-sensory experience on his canvases.

The inclusion of aluminium strip was one of the technique Lin adopted in the early phases of his Painting Relief series. An architect by training, Lin cleverly absorbs his learning from architecture design and infused it with modern art. Another defining trait of Lin would be his use of white. In fact, White acquired the status of a classic colour in 20th century art history. Partially due to its use in architecture of which Lin was deeply influenced by, but it also played the role of a unifier of all things and has cultural meanings. It represents the idea of pure and unadulterated, as well as symbolizing both the unlimited and the minimal. In 1966, the artist Joan Miró visited Lin at his London studio, and summed up his appraisal of the artist in one sentence: “In his world of white, no one can come close to him.” In Lin’s eyes white is an all-encompassing colour, when tied to his Chinese roots, the important artistic practice of ‘reserved blank (留白)’ is observed and deemed as fundamental and essential in traditional Chinese ink paintings. By imposing this traditional concept to his works, one finds the meeting point between the Eastern philosophy of "one is everything" and the modern Western art concept of "less is more", thus white became a vehicle of expression for both Eastern culture and Western spirit of modernity.

Richard Lin dedicated a lifetime perfecting the concept of Painting Relief, from his early studies on semiabstract landscape in the 1950s to finally accomplish the height of his minimalistic geometric abstractionism in the 1960s. During his prolific artistic career, Lin participated several times in the most pioneering exhibitions in Europe such as Documenta III in Kassel, Germany in 1964 from which minimal art had begun to be appreciated in Europe. His works are also collected by museums and institutions worldwide, such as Tate Modern in London, Museum of Modern Art in Roma. In particular Diptych from 1967-1968 is now proudly displayed at the National Palace Museum in Taipei as the first contemporary piece acquired by the museum in 1983. First acquired from Marlborough Fine Art in London, the present lot is a perfect representation of Lin’s philosophy and artistic breakthrough, making this work an unmissable classic.

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