Lot 1009
  • 1009

Richard Lin (Lin Shouyu)

800,000 - 1,200,000 HKD
3,220,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • Richard Lin (Lin Shouyu)
  • Painting Relief
  • signed and titled in English, dated 29-sept-61 on the reverse
  • mixed media on canvas
  • 102 by 77 cm; 40 1/4  by 30 1/4  in.


Private Asian Collection
Poly Auction, Hong Kong, 5 October 2015, Lot 00158
Acquired directly from the above sale by the present important private Asian collector


Leverkusen, Städtische Museum Leverkusen, chinesische künstler der gegenwart, 19 April - 9 June, 1963


chinesische künstler der gegenwart, Städtische Museum Leverkusen, 1963, P.21

Catalogue Note

Painting Relief – Richard Lin’s Poetry of Space

After the Second World War, abstract art had enjoyed a particularly prolific period, with various art movements from abstract expressionism, color-field painting, hard-edge to minimalism all beginning to evolve and develop. Against the trends of post-war international art, Asian artists such as Richard Lin, Zao Wou-ki, Chu Teh-Chun and Hsiao Chin traveled to Europe to study art, bringing with them the aesthetics of Chinese culture. Coincidentally, this group of Asian artists all turned their focus to abstract art. These Asian artists remarkably offered their own interpretations of an unstoppable international trend with their Eastern perspectives, carrying with them the foundation of Chinese culture. They developed unique languages of abstractionism in the 1960s and 70s, infusing their Western abstract expressionist oil paintings with Chinese philosophes and cultural elements, winning recognition from the international art world. Among them was Richard Lin, who was invited to participate in art exhibition Docmenta 3 in Kassel, Germany. He was the first Chinese artist to be invited to take part in this prestigious exhibition. One year prior to this, he also participated in the Chinesische Künstler der Gegenwart organised by Hsiao Chin in Leverkusen, Germany. Painting Relief (Lot 1009) in the upcoming evening sale was also selected in the Leverkusen exhibition. It was illustrated with detailed descriptions in the exhibition catalogue. This is truly an opportunity not to be missed.

The greater movement of abstractionism can be further divided into lyrical abstractionism, with Wassily Kandinsky as its key proponent, and geometric abstractionism, with key proponents including Kazimir Malevich and Piet Mondrian. Most Chinese artists are passionate about lyrical abstractionism, while Lin was rather uniquely pursuing the latter. His pursuit was pure artistic expressions; simple, clean lines imbued with rich connotations, while emotions are not expressed in the imagery. Richard Lin’s art reflects his artistic concepts, ever simplifying his creative output to achieve ultimate purity and rational minimalism. At first glance, his paintings resemble Western geometric abstractionist art, but the deeper spirit within came from the East. The artist’s most iconic White Series employs combinations of white colours of different shades and depths, the results evokes the “leaving white” effect in Chinese scholarly paintings, evolved from the use of ink in Chinese ink and wash. The ethereal lightness in the overall imagery came from the philosophies of Laozi and Zhuangzi, which contributed to the inner world of Lin’s art distinct from Western geometric abstractionism.

Like most abstractionist artists, Lin began with representational paintings. Lin began with semi-abstract landscape paintings in early 1950s. By 1960s, the lines gradually became simplified and incorporated into the composition, devoid of emotions and his approach moved towards the minimalistic geometric abstractionism. Lin once quoted Laozi who said that “the five colours dull one’s eyesight”. The artist believed that traditional ink and wash painting that had no colour was the highest artistic state in Eastern paintings. Lin left the majority of the composition in white, using only blocks and lines to form the composition, making use of a diverse range of materials such as aluminum foil, acrylic paint and oil paint applied in layers on the canvas, creating a three-dimensional sense of sculpture. Painting Relief is a representative masterpiece of Lin, who used different shades of white and different materials to create rectangles and lines of various sizes, resulting in subtle variations between spaces. In this work, in addition to his classic white, the artist also used large areas of metallic black, which is highly unusual for Lin, contrasting with the white like yin and yang. Upon closer examination of the areas in black, one can observe a texture that appears to be aged or rusted. With this effect, the artist introduced the element of time into the piece, enhancing the depth of the work. This and his perfect, flawless white have a contrasting relationship, like permanence and transience. Lin expressed complex philosophical ideas with the purest format, transcending the limitations of geographic locations and cultures. In the white space constructed by the artist, the framework and rigorous structures are rational as well as lyrical. Richard Lin’s minimalistic approach is undoubtedly the foremost representative amongst Chinese artists in geometric abstractionist art.