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Interview with Zhipeng Lin (223)

223, Selfie. All images courtesy of the artist.

By Luna Gong, April 2019

Zhipeng Lin, known better as 223, forgoes tradition and captures the contemporary state of modern China. His self-publication gains us a glimpse behind what is frequently referred to as the River Crab censorship. He marks his audience with an emotional, contiguous, bordering-hedonist tone with photographs capturing scenes of the young generation’s daily life: everything from feeding their dog to bouncing blow-up dolls at a party to scenes of couples copulating to a squirrel crossing the road. As seemingly random as many of these photographs seem, each clearly exposes the natural, unrestrained lifestyle of a liberated people in a screened society. Let’s talk to Zhipeng Lin about the motivations behind his works.

Luna: The name No.223 is derived from the "Chungking Express" directed by Kar-wai Wong, [A famous Chinese Director filmed <2046>, etc.] Why do you choose to make this your nickname? What influences do you see from Chungking Express and No.223 in your own work?

223: There was no significant reason for taking 223 as my own, it was only when I inadvertently saw Kar-wai Wong’s movie “Chungking Express” that I imagined that a name could be a number. That concept was extraordinary and fascinating, and now it has been used for 20 years. 

Dan's Tattoos, 2014. Giclee print, 200 x 134 cm.

Luna: Your work expresses the young generation's understanding of love, freedom, easygoing attitude towards life. After 5 years, 10 years, or even 20 years later, will you continue to use photography or other visual means to discuss and record topics such as sex, love, freedom, etc.?

223: I did not predict it. I wasn't pursuing a particular goal, so as long as these topics interest me, I will continue onwards. For at least 15 years, I have always liked shooting, and I enjoy discussing these topics. And changes in the future are very natural. Photography acts as a life record for me. Only once I pass, will my work be completed.

Luna: Many people think that your photographic work is avant-garde and only represents the perspective of the minority group. What is your view on such attitudes?

223: My lifestyle is really not a fashionable lifestyle. My photography reflects my personal life and my circle of friends. My friends are as passionate about writing, traveling, art, and passionate about life as I am.

untitled, 2016. Archival inkjet print, 100 x 67 cm.

Luna: What is your opinion on those who criticize your work as pornographic or indecent? 

223: I don't reject anyone's critique. I hope that my work is an open-ended expression of thought. I see my work as social, and I have a dialogue with society through my work. Anyone's criticism is an interesting phenomenon for me, and I like the aspect of the observer. My work includes not only elements of body and sex, but also elements of travel, narrative, and daily life. I personally think that sex and the body are the things that must be done in life. I will not look at these things in a prying attitude. I believe this is a very normal thing, just like eating and sleeping, even though these are contrary to the mainstream view of China.

untitled

Luna: Although China's social consciousness is undergoing a transformation, the mainstream consciousness of the whole society is still conservative. What are your thoughts on the collision between mainstream consciousness and the bold & direct recording in youth, sex, the physicality of your work?

223: This kind of conflict is inevitable, and China's national conditions are like this, but these are not obstacles to my work. Although my work shows freedom and debauchery, it is not complete freedom. This freedom is subject to certain restrictions. However, what I am pursuing is absolute freedom. But no artist's work can achieve full independence.

A Hidden Lyric, 2006. Giclee print, 100 x 67 cm.

Luna: Some of your work depicts scenes that you took while traveling, how do you feel the expression of these pieces connect to the rest of your work? In what ways do you think that traveling inspires you?

223: Travel brings inspiration. When I have stayed in Beijing for too long, it will drain me. And I fear that I will become a very dull person. I put the experience of traveling into my work as a natural process, I don't seek inspiration solely from the destination.

White Whale, 2016. Giclee print, 134 x 200 cm.

Luna: Your work is about the youth and growth of people. What is growth for you personally? How to understand growth?

223: Growth is a theme of my work. If I shoot until I die, then my work on growth is wholly completed. What topics that I paid attention to 10 years ago are not the same as what I am paying attention to now. Maybe the things I will pay attention to in the future will be completely different, I don't limit myself in this way, and I don't shoot with this purpose. The works I have taken so far track my growth.

Luna: In addition to Kar-wai Wong’s movie, which other films influenced your views as an artist or influenced a specific piece.

223: No specific film has a particular influence on my work. Art critics believe that my work is more influenced by Hong Kong movies. For example, the use of patterns and color elements in my works is very similar to that of old Shanghai or Hong Kong director Wang Jiawei and Guan Jinpeng in the 1990s. Personally, I like to watch post-modern European movies. But truly, my work has been influenced by many movies. 

Fetish Love, 2006. Giclee print, 33 x 55 cm.

Luna: What projects are you currently working on? Can you tell us about your showing in Between Gallery in Paris France?

223: Yes, my exhibition in Paris is coming to an end. I will then hold a solo exhibition in Germany,  Japan, and the United States, and a group exhibition in Spain. I will release my personal photography collections in Shanghai and Japan.

Kiss on Flower Bed, 2006. Giclee print, 33 x 55 cm.

Luna: Is there a chance that you will become a film director in the future?

223: Filming is my ultimate wish. And while I  have made some short films, the film industry is a complex industry, and I have no professional training related to this field. When I need to manage dozens of people and hundreds of people, I feel that it is a difficult challenge and trying for me as I am now. So for now, photography is convenient and freeing method for me to express myself.

Breath, 2012. Giclee print, 200 x 134 cm.

Luna: We know your major is Financial English, how did you develop yourself into the photographer you are today?

223:I didn't work in my field after graduation. Instead, I followed my first passion...writing. So my first job was as an editor at the media agency. During that time, I became interested in photography. Part of me had already been influenced by Nitto Animation when I was a child, and I always liked to draw comics during my youth. My belief is what I did before is all related to visual arts. So when I discovered my interest in photography, I started to publish my work on the Internet and pursued gallery exhibitions. I realized that the lifestyle of a freelancer and artist called me. So naturally, I become a photography artist. 

Spring Light, 2009. Giclee print, 67 x 100 cm.

Luna: What challenges did you face? And what advices would you give aspiring young artists and photographers today?

223: Sometimes I worry about being too relaxed and fear being lazy, so I always urge myself to take more pictures. My suggestion is to do more work. Don't set too much ambition for yourself, don't force yourself to become famous. Be sure to have a lot of enthusiasm for what you do. Don't force yourself to do works that are not suitable for you personally. Follow your heart, your liking, and your state. WM

Luna Gong

Luna Gong is a multidisciplinary artist who loves motion and graphic designs, with an MFA in Electronic Integrated Arts from the School of Art and Design at Alfred University NYSCC, ranked 9th in graduate Fine Arts programs in the country by US Newsand another MFA in Photography & Film from Luxun Academy of Fine Arts, Shenyang China, a revered international institution. Her experience includes Brand Designer, Illustrator, Adjunct Professor; and with art exhibitions held in Shanghai, Beijing, Shenyang, Chungking, Roman, and Alfred. 

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