2017 October | venews – Utopia for realists / Metra Lin, perspectives on evolving art

Metra Lin is a young curator who already has an established career in Asia. We met her in Venice in the occasion of the Art Biennale at Palazzo Mora, where she presents The Southern Cross by Cantonese artist Cen Long, part of collective exhibition Personal Structures. An interesting painter, Cen Long takes early XX-century French tradition into his large canvases to show a very personal lyrical language, one that shock the spectator with a conjugation of modern realism and a dimension of suspended temporality. Metra Lin chose this artist to represent not one world but the many worlds of art, which in her precise, deterministic vision go beyond geographic boundaries and develop self-sufficient lives of the greatest artistic freedom.

In Asia, thanks in particular to the power China showed in re- cent years, contemporary art grows exponentially year over year, both in terms of art qua- lity and in terms of market. This has been affecting the hi- storically west-leaning art world. How did you, as a cura- tor, lived these changes?

I hold a positive view to the rising of China, and it has indeed im- pacted the whole art world. Asian collectors no longer focus singu- larly on western art, but are now willing and inclined towards art- work that is compatible to their own culture and taste. On the other hand, western collectors are begin- ning to show higher interest in Asian art. I consider this develop- ment a healthy bridge that will lead to an elevation in both the quality and diversity of modern art.

State-sponsored art, large mu- seums, galleries, free market: what factors influence the seve- ral actors in the world of con- temporary art in the East today?

Within the decade, private mu- seum, art foundations, physical and virtual auction companies and a myriad of art fairs have been intro- duced into the world. In Asia, and especially in China, the thriving of art-related institutions is spectacu- lar. Art-related activities’ rise in popularity and scale has increas- ingly exposed the idea of collecting and investing in art to the public.

What are, also from a market point of view, the most stimu- lating and dynamic art milieus of Europe today?

I find the European art market not to have fluctuated much from its standards. I gathered the sense that art fairs have increased in numbers, however, since their quality are yet consistent its rise thus marks no significant impact on the art market as a whole.

Cen Long, the artist you chose for Personal Structures at the 57 th Art Biennale, seems to work along a path of European-style expressionist symbolism. What are the reasons behind this choice of figurative language?

Cen Long’s earliest artistic enlight- enment is inspired by France. And since oil painting is a tradition passed down from the western world, it is only natural that Cen Long’s techniques and stylistic pur- suits are inspired by the essence of many western masters. Alongside his reverence and admiration of great painters of the past, however, Cen Long stresses and strives for rigorously, the creation of his per- sonal language in art. Being deeply influenced by his parents that were eminent scholars in Chinese an- thropology, ethnology, art history and history, Cen Long’s paintings are imbued with profound Eastern philosophies. Cen Long holds in high regard many works by west- ern abstract painters, but his life long goal as an artist is the repre- sentation of abstract spirituality through specific and unique figu- rative approaches.

Cen Long’s art is very sugge- stive, it sends us to a world di- stant in space and time, what do the faces of these portrayed people tell us?

The most outstanding and funda- mental feature of Cen Long’s art- work is his expression of love. The characters Cen Long depicts are all kind, genuine people with healthy vitality. He hopes that his paintings are prisms that can project in the viewers’ hearts, love and hope. The faces he portrays often look familiar at first, yet their features and in particular, their gazes, seem to embody deeper meanings that isn’t deliv- ered immediately. The viewers are inspired to contemplate the meanings and subtleties behind his figures, which Cen Long’s in- tended effect.

Being in Venice as a curator at the time of Biennale Arte. What modernity did you see? And what vision of the East do you think emerges from the many participations of artists and exhibitions?

I experienced the vitality and live- liness of the Biennale, and through the participation of the whole world, I felt the borderless nature of art. The active and pas- sionate participation of Asian artists heralds a future with fre- quent and deep artistic ex- changes between western and eastern societies.

What future projects have your priority? What new artists do you want to bring to Biennale and to other important Euro- pean events in the future?

I will continue curating exhibi- tions that embodies and expresses the universality of human emo- tions. Aside from Cen Long’s solo exhibition in Europe, I also wish to present at the next Biennale, an exhibition, larger in scale, that co- operatively pieces together a di- verse and entertaining collection of artwork by Asian artists.