Odd juxtapositions lead to unexpected results. Zinan Lam gives his street art a dazzling and distinctive twist through his grounding in traditional Chinese art. In cities around the country, he brings together ancient and modern thought in a colorful “Neo-Oriental” style that always draws viewers in for a closer look.
Lam grew up in Chaozhou, in Guangdong province, where he first came into contact with street culture as a teenager. Now he works in Shanghai, combining graffiti techniques and traditional Chinese and Asian aesthetics in a stunning synthesis. Spanning several media, and enlivening public spaces with a vibrant palette and nods to local culture, his work can’t quite be called graffiti. “Graffiti is just a handy label,” he says. “But my work now is mixed-media visual art. It hasn’t been graffiti for a long time.”
Neocha visited Lam at his studio one late summer afternoon. From the corridor to the patio, his large workspace is jam-packed with his own artwork, along with cans of spray paint, sneakers, skateboards, equipment, and houseplants in the windows. Outside his door hangs a sign with the OOP logo.
OOP is the media platform Lam founded in 2014. In addition to showcasing his own work, it’s constantly promoting street culture and art, with news, music, lectures, products, and more. “All of these are things I really like. But right now I mostly want to get back to art,” he explains.
“I like to work on my art at my studio, and I like to have music on in the background—I listen to everything from classical to hip hop to electronica.” As he says this, Haruomi Hosono’s synthesizer melodies drift into the room, giving the space an upbeat yet thoughtful atmosphere.
工作室内外装饰的 “OOP” 标牌格外引人注目。2014 年，林子楠和朋友共同创建了这个分享平台，除了介绍他自己的作品以外，平台还持续为街头文化和艺术输入养分，内容涵盖了资讯、音乐、讲座、产品等领域，将不同领域的艺术家和朋友聚集在一起。
“Public art can’t be summed up in a few simple words,” Lam says. “Everything from graffiti to street art to what’s now called urban art arises from artists’ relationship to the contemporary world.”
One form of public art that Lam creates is murals. A good mural can be a site of cultural interaction with the public, a place for people to communicate with each other and with the city. Lam has worked in several cities and left behind traces of his presence in each one. In Shanghai, his huge outdoor mural The New Wave is visible on Hengshan Road, while Awaken graces a wall at Columbia Circle.
“街头艺术并不能用几个简单的词语概括，从最早的 Graffiti，到 Street Art，再到现在被大家成为 Urban Art，都是时代与人群发生的一场关系。”
Lam’s latest mural, “The Peach Land,” on the side of a silo that rises 20 meters high in the city of Wenzhou, shows vibrant peaches set against a blue and reddish landscape. A colorful spring flows in a line between them. Viewed from a certain angle, the mural blends into the area’s scenery, with the Ou river and an unbroken mountain range in the background. As you approach, you feel you’ve entered an idyllic painted landscape.
The inspiration for the mural comes from the classical poem “Notes from the Land of Peach Blossoms,” by fourth-century poet Tao Yuanming. “The poem tells of a fisherman who accidentally rows his boat into a cave and discovers an edenic wonderland—a very surreal scene, perhaps. I wanted to use a dream world to tell about myself.”
林子楠最近的作品《The Peach Land》在浙江温州一栋二十米高的米仓上完成，壁画上鲜艳的大桃子背朝蓝红山川，一道斑斓的泉水从中直泻而下。从某个角度看上去，与整片区域背后的瓯江和绵绵山脉融为一体，走近它恍如走进一片由染料涂绘而成的 “世外桃源”。这部作品的灵感也正是出自陶渊明《桃花源记》，林子楠说：“诗里面讲述的是一位渔民划船，误入洞口发现一个乌托邦的场景，这可能是非常超现实的梦境。我想用一个梦幻的地方，去讲述属于每个人自己的小境地。” 同时，整幅壁画也与米仓地面部分的滑板场构建出一个整体的概念。
Lam worked on “The Peach Land” for a year, and during that time he ran up against a string of challenges. “There are a lot of barriers to public art in China, and you have to get approval for the content and the general direction from all sorts of authorities,” he explains. Other challenges were of a technical nature. “The silo itself is really fascinating. It has a rounded surface, so when I was painting I had to think about how to stretch out the image so that it would look complete,” he explains. “I want people to experience this work themselves. To feel the power of public art, you have to experience it up close.”
《The Peach Land》项目共持续了一年的时间，巨大且精致的轮廓，搭配鲜艳分明的色彩与，会不由得让路过的人驻足片刻，林子楠说：“希望大家可以去现场亲身感受这部作品，公共艺术需要真正走到作品面前，才能感受到它的力量。” 但创作途中也遇到了很多困难，“公共艺术在中国还是会有很多阻碍，要画的内容和引导，都需要在相关部门进行审批。米仓的建筑特别有意思，其本身是圆弧的表面，所以在画的时候会考虑把画面拉伸，这样才能看到一个完整的平面，为创作大大增加了难度”。
Lam is a father now, and having a family has reaffirmed his faith in his art, and it’s inspired him to expand what he does. “In the future I may move into other media,” he says. “I might try my hand at sculpture, for example. Now that I’m in a new phase, I want to venture into new territories, exploring new things and keeping my curiosity about the unknown.”
The Peach Land
Wenzhou MiFang Industry Park
No. 5255, Oujiang Road