Maria Laura Perilli
The works of art created by the artist LILY YOU look like silent and quiet images to the eye of the onlooker. They sound like footsteps in the night, where the only element you perceive are the grey , black and white colours which break through a window, their soft breathing and the light footsteps. The ethereal and evanescent images appear in front of the onlooker; and we can’t merely perceive the paleness of her way of painting as a characteristic which we can associate with bodiless and evanescent images in opposition to what is instead well-shaped. There is more complexity in her art.
We are standing in front of a path of perception, where images gradually reveal themselves and where the visible shows itself through shapes which are never precise and well-defined. It is a journey made up of incomplete perceptions. And it is indeed in this endless and incomplete perception that we can grasp the magic and mysterious component of Lily Yu’s works of art. It’s in this characteristic that we can find the disquieting interwinding of bodies between love and death, a theme which is was dear to the painters Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt. We can find, in fact, the ideas of oblivion and the search for the unconscious. In Lily it is possible to find evident links to the paintings made by these two artists. We can’t forget that the years when Klimt created his masterpieces, Schnitzler described visionary, almost mad, scenarios in his novels , and Sigmund Freud studied the unconscious and emphasized the importance of sexual life.
Some paintings belonging to Lily’s former artistic output deal with the elements of the kiss and of the embrace, which were also typical of Klimt, Schiele and Munch, where man’s identity is “sucked” and destroyed by a “deadly woman”. Her bodies are tied by contrasting feeling of love and hatred, but – unlike Schiele’s- they are not torn and broken, but they are smooth, impalpable, lost in oblivion and forgetfulness. The forests depicted in the background remind of the branches of Mondrian’s red tree (1909) whereas the combination of black and grey colours remind of Rembrandt’s paintings. Moreover, the animals portrayed in the natural scenes remind of the paintings of the famous naif painter Henri Rousseau, whose central feature is the spontaneity of his art, and who drew inspiration from the zoos and botanic gardens of Paris. His way of painting was widely appreciated because it symbolised a form of escape from the modern world and a sort of rediscovery of the primary and primitive elements of life.
Like in Rousseau’s paintings, in the works of art of this artist we can identify an allegorical element: from the broken branch of a tree to the fog, from dark waters to the image of a boat without a steersman. In the paintings of this young and promising painter we can find classical statues of women lying on the grass, or a black piano which is incorporated in a forest : it’s a dream world, a metaphysical image. Her paintings clearly show the artist’s capability to escape from modern civilization through a spontaneous inner world, without making use of domineering, cumbersome and overwhelming images. That’s why we can say that her works of art are closely related to Rousseau’s magic realism, endowed with a modern way of reading and interpreting the world, and which furthermore is not far from classical elements.
Lily’s subjects look like travelling souls, ghosts in search of a destination, moving stubbornly with a regular rhythm. They are transparent and pale souls. But how can we solve the problem related to what is transparent and what is diaphanous? In the idea of what is diaphanous the concepts of opaque elements and what,instead, is transparent are included. Both are very close concepts; you can move from pure transparent, which is empty, non-existent, to translucent diaphanous, which allows the light to go through, but which doesn’t define the outline of things. Lily’s Yu’s bodies are covered with a film, a veil, a screen, which – quoting Emile Zola – “ always has a width that refracts and transforms the objects”. Zola said it was a sort of “ a thin, impalpable grey dust”.
The diaphanous is the transparency of the light and therefore the lack of weight, the “lightness”, the one Italo Calvino considered a fundamental pillar and code of the literary world in the third millennium. Calvino, who was a fond reader of classical writings identifies it in “De Rerum Natura” by Lucrezio: “It’s the first great poem where the knowledge of the world turns into a disintegration of the unity and compactness of the world itself, a perception of what is infinitely small, light and movable. Lucrezio aimed at writing the poem of “matter”, “substance”. He highlighted the fact that this “matter” is made up of invisible “corpuscles”. He is the poet of physical concreteness, seen in its permanent and unchangeable nature, but – above all- he tells us that the void , empty space is as concrete as the solid reality: his main concern is to avoid being crushed under the burden, the weight of the physical world. Lightness has invaded our lives from architecture to painting. In Lily Yu’s works of art lightness is the fundamental component of her artistic and pictorial language. This element makes her art highly modern and up-to-date because, like Calvino, she can read the past and the classical world finding in the past important elements to read and interpret the present. Transparency can in fact be found in Ancient Greece’s sculptures, from archaism to Fidia, up to the Renaissance with Botticelli’s dancers. Lily Yu’s bodies and subjects , like the lion, the horse, the woman wearing a veil, are hieratic. They prevail in the painting, transparent, alluring, and defy the onlooker. Like a knife, a blade, they cut the horizon which appears in front of them.
Anyone who looks at her paintings can identify the artist’s open attitude and her eagerness to make the onlooker protagonist of the work of art by deciding the fate and destination of the souls which are depicted.
Her paintings are hermeneutical; the characters symbolise her moods and states of mind: the woman with the veil stands for sensuality, the lion stands for aggressiveness, courage, firmness of purpose, self – awareness, the strong link and anchorage with the earth and the real world. These protagonists are portrayed in the middle of forests, thick woods with tall trees, which are crossed by the light, moving like a sort of blade, a flash of lighting. They are powerful subjects which move onward with their mighty power and the willingness to impose themselves. Their “absent aspect” provides the onlookers with the possibility of recognising themselves in those elements at any moment, depending on the specific mood. Identifying ourselves means being fully aware of ourselves, understanding that we need a project and we cannot live without a purpose, that we need to reflect, think, suggest, and moreover that we need to listen and understand, and listening and understanding allow us to love.