— Viewing room
Lin Yan
Solo Exhibition by Brooklyn-based Chinese artist

Helwaser Gallery is pleased to present Origin Point, a solo exhibition by Chinese-born, Brooklyn-based artist Lin Yan. Lin Yan is known for her site-specific installations, sculpture, and two dimensional works,which she produces through working with Xuan paper, a type of handmade paper traditionally used for Chinese calligraphy and ink. Within the last fifteen years, Lin Yan has worked almost exclusively with Xuan paper, approaching it as a medium in and of itself, emphasizing its materiality through crumbling,folding, layering, and casting them into various forms. Often executed without color, Lin Yan’s works locate significance in the textural and affective qualities of Xuan paper, serving as meditative and poetic statements on her chosen subjects.

In this exhibition, Lin Yan responds to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest and the broader conversation on the ongoing climate emergency through the installation Alioth (玉衡) (2019). The work consists of assembled cast reliefs of tree branches and trunks. Reflecting the artist’s continued engagement with narratives surrounding ecological disaster, and the use of her appointed medium to address them, the work presents anawareness of two essential components of the living ecosystem – the sky and earth – and the unity between them. The fifth work in the artist’s public installation series, entitled Regeneration of Hope (希望重生) (2017- present), Alioth (玉衡) builds on the series’ contemplation of the relationship between nature, man, and the universe.

Alongside her engagement with environmental issues, additional smaller works provide more insight into Lin Yan’s broader practice. Through their imagery, structure, and lyricism, Lin Yan’s works point their viewers towards the relationship between man, nature, and cosmology.

Last modified

December 4, 2019


Lin Yan

Install View - 1
Lin Yan
Breeze (微风), 2014 - 2019
ink and Xuan paper
38 x 52 x 3 in (framed), 83.8 x 121.9 x 25.4 cm
Lin Yan
Foggy Days 5 (雾天 5), 2012
Xuan paper on linen
58 x 76 in, 147.3 x 193 cm

There are various kinds of Xuan paper, and I use them in fragmented pieces to make paper collages with traditional mounting methods. It is the same as when a painter paints in oils with a brush. I like to use Xuan paper in slightly different shades of white and maintain its natural textures to create a painterly quality on the surface, or use it in combination with a sculptural form.


-Lin Yan, Brooklyn-based, Chinese artist. In "Lin Yan: A Negotiation with Space," in Yishu Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art.

Install View - 5
Lin Yan
Scholar Rock (假石), 2018
ink and Xuan paper on wood board
60 x 28 1/4 x 3 in, 152.4 x 71.8 7.6 cm
Lin Yan
Leaves are Gone #3 (落叶 #3), 2019
ink and Xuan paper
77 x 50 in 195.6 x 139.7 cm

Lin Yan responds to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest and the broader conversation on the ongoing climate emergency through the installation Alioth (玉衡), 2019. The work consists of assembled cast reliefs of tree branches and trunks; these reliefs are made through a particular process of layering xuan paper on the bodies of trees until they harden and fragment, and are later mended, stitched together, and re-constructed to form the installation. The installation also consists of an arrangement of fine threads on the ceiling, executed in a pattern that takes after that of the Big Dipper, which the work’s namesake (the Alioth star) is part of. The work presents an awareness of two essential components of the living ecosystem – the sky and earth – and the unity between them.

Install View - 6
Lin Yan
Regeneration of Hope — Alioth (希望重生 - 玉衡), 2019
Two part installation. Sculpture: ink, Xuan paper and cotton string. Ceiling: Pins and cotton string
Sculpture: 48 x 28 in, 121.9 x 71.1 cm. Ceiling: dimensions variable

The paper has a certain degree of transparency, yet it is ambiguous and reserved, fragile and delicate, yet very flexible and versatile. It can become very solid as well when I cast it with many layers. To have an intimate dialogue with paper is just like speaking a native language for me. It is exciting to rediscover an old art medium and to celebrate its loaded cultural history, and then to endow it with contemporary means. 


-Lin Yan, Brooklyn-based, Chinese artist. In "Lin Yan: A Negotiation with Space," in Yishu Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art.

Install View - 3
Lin Yan
Ending Game II (清场), 2018
ink and Xuan paper on wood panel
28 x 26 in, 71.1 x 66 cm
Lin Yan
Between Day and Night 4, 2018
ink, Xuan paper and nails on wood panel
20 x 17.75 in, 50.8 x 45.1 cm
Lin Yan
Between Day and Night 3, 2019
ink and Xuan paper on masonite board
20 x 16 in, 50.8 x 40.6 cm

In Leaves are Gone #3 (落叶 #3) (2014-2019), Xuan paper was used to cast reliefs of tree bark; stained with black ink, these works resemble petrified tree trunks, forming a somber counterpoint to the formal lightness of Alioth (玉衡), 2019.

Install View - 4
Lin Yan
Common Words (常见字 16) - Empire, Pray, Roses 16, 2018
ink and Xuan paper
55.5 x 27.6 in, 141 x 70 cm
Lin Yan
Common Words (常见字 4)- Empire, Pray, Roses 4, 2018
ink and Xuan paper
55.5 x 27.6 in, 141 x 70 cm
Install View - 2
Lin Yan
Pray (祈), 2019
Paper collage, wax, nails on linen and wood board
14.5 x 10 in, 36.8 x 25.4 cm
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