Lu Xinjian: City DNA
Lu Xinjian’s work changed dramatically in 2008, following his move from Shanghai to Daegu, South Korea. It was then that he began working with a new and confident aesthetic. Figuration was replaced in his paintings by masses of straight and curved lines, rectangles, crosses, and circles. These taut, exact marks are indebted to Mondrian and De Stijl, as well as to Lu’s own background in design.
To create the twelve works in his latest exhibition, Lu first looked at aerial views of cities on Google Earth––including New York, Beijing, Munich, Antwerp, Athens, Basel, and Los Angeles. Each painting uses an abstract pattern the artist derived from looking at and sketching views of the cities. The patterns were then made into stencils using Adobe Illustrator and a cutting plotter, and Lu chose the colors of each work based on the cities’ national flags. After a first impression of graphic decoration, the viewer is gradually introduced to the “format” and vibe of a real place––in architectural terminology, its “City DNA.” Lu applies this term as the title of the series and of this exhibition, thus positing a link between his work and architectural practice.
The paintings hover between representation and abstraction. For those familiar with a given city, areas and shapes are recognizable; for example, in Beijing No. 2, 2010, central courtyard systems and artificial lakes become visible as the eye grows accustomed to legions of intersecting lines that monopolize bright, monochromatic backgrounds. Simple, perhaps, at first glance, these paintings in fact negotiate a subtle balance between flat pictorial space and multidimensional global cities. A strong conceptual approach allows Lu to express the special characteristics of each city while establishing a visual conversation between diverse urban hubs. In this sense, his distillations convey the historical evolution of each city structure and the homogenizing effects of globalization.