M+, Hong Kong, © Michael Lin. Photo: M+, Hong Kong
Michael Lin is a Taiwanese artist, he was born in Japan, raised in Taiwan and America.
Pauline Yao is lead curator for visual art at M+, and a close friend of Michael’s.
He attended art school in California and studied painting and then he returned to Taiwan after that and got involved with this group of artists and was working as a bartender in an art space, as that tends to happen, sometimes! It's a very social environment, and he was also making his own art. And then he eventually started exhibiting in that space and the work Untitled (Cigarette Break), is from one of his early exhibitions in that art space.
So that's kind of where things began with him using these textile patterns. I think he was quite interested or fascinated with how these patterns speak of a certain kind of history within Taiwan, of decorative arts or a textile pattern and traditions that exist in Taiwan.
So, this was a period for him in which he was experimenting with how to use these patterns in a spatial way and create a dialogue with this cube, you know, the white cube of the gallery is also quite important. That juxtaposition between this very bright, colourful, floral pattern, which is very much about a private space or a home space or something domestic, and then contrasting that with the modernist art space.
He's also creating kind of a social space. So, he's not only using the pattern to maybe create a conversation with the environment, but then by using the pattern in relationship with the furniture. So, it's also a three-dimensional and two-dimensional transition. At this point, he was interested in that transitional space, so between the public and the private and sort of being neither nor.
The one thing though that really makes the whole installation or the whole work, something, sort of pivotal piece, I would say, is the addition of the ashtray. I just think it's one of these things that… that one object… to me, it would be a completely different work if that was not there, if the ashtray wasn't there it would just be two chairs. And you could have that very interesting dialogue, two-dimensional, three-dimensional pattern, surface, something, but the ashtray puts it onto some other plane or other level where, again, it invites back into this kind of more human presence and this social interaction aspect.
And I just find it fascinating—and I love the way that artists can do that, just with one small addition, twist and change the entire thing.
Untitled (Cigarette Break) is an installation work created by Michael Lin in 1999. The installation includes sofa chairs, a metal ashtray, and emulsion-painted wood panels. The dimensions of the work vary depending on how the work is set up in the display space.
The work is set at the corner of the space. In front of the perpendicular white walls, two one-seat sofa chairs of cream colour sit against the left wall and the right wall, respectively. Between them is a cylindrical metallic ashtray bin of silver-grey colour. On the walls behind the sofas hang five paintings of bright peach blossom flower patterns, which also appear on part of the sofa chair covers.
The two sofa chairs are a modified version of the LC-2 armchair designed by Le Corbusier. They are roughly cubic in shape and each side is about sixty centimetres wide. Each sofa has a thin metal frame of silver colour, wrapping five thick, rectangular cushions. The cushions together form the backrest, the two armrests and the double-layered seat of the sofa. The fabric covers of the cushions are of cream colour, except for one that has peach blossom patterns. The pattern adorns the right armrest of one chair, and the seat of the other. All cream-coloured cushions look slightly yellowish, which gives an aged impression.
Standing between the sofas, the cylindrical ashtray bin is about the same height as the sofas. The bin has a wide round opening on the side, and an ashtray on the top. There are cigarette butts in the ashtray.
The five paintings hanging on the walls are rectangular in shape. On one wall hangs three paintings of similar width as the armchairs, two are square, and one is rectangular and taller in height; on the other wall hangs two larger square paintings.
Depicted on a rosy pink background are peach blossom flowers that are larger than the size of an adult’s head. Both the background and the flowers are covered with small white hollow circles. The brightly coloured flowers are aligned diagonally and alternate between cream colour and red colour. Each flower has five round petals and is outlined in white. The stamens are represented by five droplet shapes with their tips pointing towards the centre. The red flowers have yellow stamens, and the cream-coloured flowers have purple stamens. This pattern on the paintings is the same as that on the sofa cushions but larger in size. Overall, the paintings resemble five pieces of cloth cut from a gigantic sheet of flower-patterned fabric.