Contemporary Art from a Fashion Historian's Perspective: Lin Tianmiao

9:47 PM

I don't know very much about contemporary art. It's not really my thing. And when I went to see Bound Unbound: Lin Tianmiao at the Asia Society, I knew absolutely nothing about the artist or her place in the world of Chinese contemporary art. But I was intrigued by this exhibition because the majority of the works on display significantly used textiles. I'm not sure if I "got it" or if any contemporary art critic would agree with my interpretation of Tianmiao's art. But I think one of the great things about art is that you bring your own history and experiences to the art you view, thus coloring your own interpretation. So here is the interpretation of contemporary art by a fashion historian.

All The Same by Lin Tianmiao, 2011.

Bound Unbound: Lin Tianmiao, at the Asia Society until January 27, 2013, showcases the work of Chinese artist Lin Tianmiao. Tianmiao’s work uses thread and textiles, along with other media, to create sculptural pieces exploring concepts of the human body. Her work is inspired by memories of her childhood in China, when she would help her mother sew clothes for the family. According to the introductory text of the exhibition, Tianmiao’s works “are as much about her personal journey as an artist as they are about a desire to articulate broader social issues. Through her focus on the female experience, she comments on the enormous social progress made in Chinese society during Mao Zedong’s tenure, yet she hints that some promises remain unfulfilled." Her work also explores the concept of dualities. According to the exhibition press release, “These are frequently played out in her works through contrasts between materials, but they are also evident in binary themes such as male versus female, function versus form, and physical versus psychological experience.” Within my personal experience of the exhibition, I was particularly struck by the unique interaction between textile and human form.

Chatting by Lin Tianmiao, 2004. Photo © Michael Bodycomb
Bodies are covered in silk fabric, and connected by threads.

Much of Tianmiao’s work uses a technique called thread winding, in which “she winds silk or cotton thread around an object until it is completely covered and ultimately transformed.” In pieces such as All The Same (2011), Tianmiao wraps bones from the human body in different colored threads, creating a rainbow of bones. In other works, she covers human forms and other objects with pieces of silk. To me, these works showed an exploration of the relationship between the human body and its textile covering. The drive to clothe the body is shared by almost all societies on the planet. It is one of the things that unites us as people. I found Tianmiao’s work a reflection of this idea. Despite any cultural differences, at our core we are all made of the same bones, take the same basic shape. Wrapping these basic foundations of humanity in thread and fabric reflects the idea that, like bones and bodies, clothing is also a basic foundation of humanity.

You can learn more about the artist and her work at the exhibition website.

You Might Also Like