Fiber artist weaves his passion into stunning works of art
Lin Lecheng weaves, knits and crochets with his fiber arts. He has been involved in fiber art for over 50 years as the founder of the Qingkong Renju Art Gallery in Songjiang District's Xinqiao Town, creating his art pieces with fibers.
Fiber art is full of handmade charm and warmth, inspiring a deep feeling of nature and transmitting an eco-friendly attitude. It is known for its distinctive techniques, rich texture and profound cultural legacy.
"Many of my fiber works are heavily influenced by nature, countryside scenery and folklife," said Lin, who is also a professor at the Tsinghua University Academy of Arts & Design and the managing director of the China Arts and Crafts Society.
Lin's wool-weaving piece "Water Village," which is on display in the gallery, uses abstract calligraphy style to create five modest wooden boats, creating a picturesque view of the Yangtze River's southern bank. The woolen boats provide a sensation of three-dimensionality in space. The viewers appear to be standing on a bridge, staring out over the river at the wooden boats.
Lin, who was born in China's northeast, has a unique bond with the watertowns of southern China. Since 1981, he has done a number of artistic creations with towns as the themes. He paints first, then develops it into a handcrafted expression that may be woven, embroidered and dyed.
Fiber art differs from brush strokes on paper and is a much longer process.
"A small part alone could take two or three days to weave," Lin explained. "It requires an artist to be completely focused."
His involvement in fiber art dates back to his boyhood in Shenyang, an industrial city in Liaoning Province with streets lined with textile companies, steel plants, ceramics factories and glass workshops.
The world of fibers enlightened and welcomed the young Lin – fibers of metal, plants, fabrics and animals.
He joined Shenyang Carpet Factory as a weaver in 1972. He rose to become a carpet draftsman a year later and had the opportunity to engage in design training courses under the guidance of the city's top illustrators. In 1978, he was admitted to the Central Academy of Arts and Crafts and stayed on with the school as a teacher of fiber art after graduation.
"People can feel the art directly with their fingers," Lin said. "It's more immersive and deeper than just visual appreciation."
Fibers, whether as small as a fine thread or as large as a free-standing sculpture, offer limitless possibilities for Lin's artistic technique. His works can be found in large public areas such as Hong Kong Special Administrative Region's Central Government Complex, Beijing Chemsunny World Trade Center, China Development Bank, Yan'an University Library and Hotan Museum in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. These pieces demonstrate the artist's exceptional ability to control and manage varied spaces.
Lin fashioned 34 fish lamps out of local straw and embedded them with LED color light strips to illuminate the terraced fields at night in Jiabang County of southwest China's Guizhou Province.
In Shijiao Village, Zhejiang Province, the artist recruited local farmers to make more than 100 open-air installations with bamboo poles that blended into the village landscapes.
Lin opened an art gallery in Songjiang, where he began his career, three years ago. "My first work was released and auctioned in Shanghai," Lin said. "I'm now back for new ideas."
In May, the gallery hosted the Songjiang special exhibition "From Lausanne to Beijing" International Fiber Art Biennale, which featured more than 200 fiber artworks from around the world.
The forerunner to the biennale was the Lausanne International Tapestry Biennale, which became a catalyst for global conversations on innovative fiber works. However, after 30 years, the exhibition closed in 1996.
Lin took up the baton and resumed the festival in Beijing in 2000, renaming it the "From Lausanne to Beijing International Fiber Art Biennale."
The Songjiang exhibition features the "cream of the crop" from last year's biennale. They are made from a variety of fibers, including silk, cotton, paper, wood, wool, plants, metals, fruit shells and even tea bags, and are created using various techniques such as weaving, crochet, embroidery, printing, dyeing and collage, as well as painting, sculpture, installation and printmaking.
"Songjiang is the birthplace of Huang Daopo, the founder of Chinese textile technology, and master weaver Zhu Kerou," Lin said. "It's a tribute to them and to the place where China's fiber art can be traced back to its roots and origins."