Focus 2

Lin Tianmiao


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Object Detail

lithograph on handmade paper
124 x 101 cm
As a child, Lin Tianmiao spent long hours helping her mother
wind silk and cotton and make clothes. Memories of that
work underpin her art, which has always incorporated
sewing, thread, and themes of motherhood and family.
To make Focus 1 and 2, she printed photo portraits on
fibrous xuan paper. Tightly cropped and hugely enlarged,
the faces are barely identifiable. (In fact they belong to the
artist’s son and husband.) From a distance, the viewer
recognises eyes, nose and mouth and instantly assembles
a face. At closer range, the grey features dissolve and the
paper comes into focus. In one picture it is covered with
trailing tangles of white thread; in the other, it is embossed
with faint bumps and pockmarked with ragged holes.
“When you lose focus, that is when you try to understand,”
Lin Tianmiao says. By tugging our attention from face to
carefully embellished paper and back again, she obscures
her subjects’ identities while underscoring their uniqueness.
“Who are we?” she asks. Does individuality lie in the
accidents of our appearance, or in the experiences of our
life—our mother’s loving care, the threads that connect us
to others, the scars of age and suffering?
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