Lin-Lin Mao works in 2-dimensional and multidimensional spaces and sees painting as the act of putting marks onto or into a space. A mark could be a strand of yarn, a loop of crochet, an origami crane, or a dirty plate from last night’s dinner. Lin-Lin’s art work invites a viewer to investigate and discover, and to interpret the work in their own way with what they bring to the conversation. Her multi-dimensional “paintings” use human scaled rooms so that viewers can move around to investigate the work from different perspectives. She received her MA in Fine Arts from Bath Spa University in the United Kingdom in 2017 and has since produced works within the UK and United States. You can find more of her work online at http://linlinmao.com/
What are your feelings towards the space here in the Good Arts Building?
When looking for a studio space, I received a notification from Space Finder and remembered it as one of the places I would love to have a studio house. When I saw there were 13 new spaces, I immediately emailed Jane and then I went in the next day. She showed me all the spaces and I was just super excited that there was a place that I would be able to have all my own.
I just feel so fortunate. This space, it feels like a very safe place for artists. I think Jane has done a lot of that. I know she’s done a lot of work to make sure that it is a safe place because she’s an artist and understands and has experienced this thing. I feel she really has selected a good variety of different types of artists. When I was in art school around the other students, one thing I knew was if I didn’t have a studio among other artists, I would miss that type of interaction and learning to cross pollinate. Doing art can be very solitary, but to walk down the hall and pop in and see what people are working on – there’s so much talent in the world, you know?
What relationship does your art have with the space here?
Jane knew that I had worked with installation before. This (above) was from my final thesis project. I had set up two installations and both of them used crocheted yarn. So when she mentioned to me that it would be nice to have something under the skylights on this floor as well as the stairwell, I was just so excited. This is one of the pieces I had made when I was in art school and it was one of my thesis project installations—but that piece was in a very small room. I hung yarn from it and that installation touched the floor. When I thought about it here, it would be very high up, but it’d be nice to resurrect it and see what it looks like in this space.
And so that’s what I did. And I was really pleased because I feel like having that piece now in a new space and not on the floor, I had to figure out, how am I going to hang this here where people could actually walk underneath, since it’s a hallway. I ended up rolling up the bottom threads to make them more even so that people could walk under it. If you’re walking under it and you look up, you see the art work in a different perspective. And I hadn’t even thought about that. Why I like to create art is when you try to adapt something for a different environment, I feel like many times I do learn something other than what I first intended. So with that piece, that was a learning experience thinking, “Oh my gosh, this art piece is still giving.” Because even last year when I first created it, it was actually the first installation I had ever done. Before that, I used to just paint. What I learned in art school was with contemporary art, it really is about materials and anything really goes. And so then I started to thinking about using yarn as art and that opened up a whole new world for me.
With the piece in the stairwell, that was another opportunity. I feel like as a creator, you’re always learning, you’re problem solving. When Jane had asked me to do an installation with that space, well, first of all, I started overthinking it, and then I realized, “Oh, I have a thousand cranes from last year when I was at art school.” The reason why I did the 1000 cranes is just, you know, the feeling that a lot of us have these days about how things are going the wrong direction in terms of the why. Why is there still a war or global warming? So the thousand cranes is a Japanese legend that if you make 1000 cranes and make a wish then your wish will come true. So that’s my motivation for folding the 1000 cranes – my wish for good things to start happening for the world.
What materials do you enjoy working with?
If I bring you back to my first memories as a child, my first memories were as a four year old looking at something that was this bag that I thought was fascinating. And then I learned later it was done by something called crochet: taking yarn or string and making this interesting bag. That’s how also I felt about origami. I was born in Taiwan and I was just fascinated that you could take a square sheet of paper and turn it into something just like yarn into a bag. So I had been crocheting since I was seven or eight years old, and my mother crocheted. So I just watched her and learned from her. The last year when I was in art school I learned that art is more than just painting or sculptures or drawings – now people use yarn. I immediately thought about crochet. Another reason why I like crochet as opposed to knitting, is that these days with all the technology and everything – I really like the handmade. What I learned through my study and research in art school is that there are no crochet machines. There are knitting machines that can copy human knitting, but there is no machine that can copy hand crochet. So that’s another reason why I want to continue crocheting. Because for me it’s about the handmade, about knowing things, and making things with my hands.
What concepts are you currently exploring?
When I was younger I would illustrate stories I had in my head—it was a form of learning and exploring. Now as an adult I kind of take that further. When I worked on these two pieces—these are my sisters—I used paper plates as palettes. And when I was looking at these palettes, I thought, “I can’t discard them, these are beautiful.” So in this painting, I put them in here because I’m questioning both: What’s art? The intended, the sisters, or what’s in this plate? What is the conscious or superconscious here intending to do with this? And the subconscious is that I’m mixing the colors and making some decisions. But afterwards it’s really pretty. And so what I’m doing is I’m saving all my paper palettes from the last two years. And I realized the plates, some had plastic on them, so you can pull it off and look at the reverse. I feel like I’m mining, I’m just discovering the beauty that is.
Responses edited & condensed from comments made during an interview.