Tags: Artist, Painter, Man about town
Been in Fuzhou: 10 years
Speaking of the expat of Fuzhou, many would suggest a single name – Lincoln! Born in 1972 in Sydney, Australia, Mr. Lincoln Miller moved to Fuzhou as early as 2004. Before settling here, Lincoln had been drifting from city to city seeking new inspiration for his art. Starting from Down Under in Sydney and Melbourne, he moved to the Philippines for a while, then made the jump to some of the top-tier Chinese cities including Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou. Some of these cities hosted him for short times, some for longer, but there was something about Fuzhou that has anchored Lincoln for the better part of a decade. Despite the limitations of his Mandarin, he has managed to weave himself into the very fabric of the city, and exert tremendous influence on the Fuzhou art scene.
I, like many, had run into Lincoln on several different occasions over the past few years. He and his wife, Guo Lianna, were frequently hosting and attending galleries and art salons all over the city. I did another interview with Lincoln several years ago in his first workshop that overlooked a rather placid stretch of the Min River. Now they’ve re-located into a new workshop with a larger area devoted to a new studio. In fact, the whole apartment has been designed with open, convertible spaces that can be used for a variety of purposes, from parties to art displays. However, like the first workshop, this new one again looks out on the breadth of the Min River, with the stubs of the pylons from the old HongShan Bridge visible at a distance. During the interview, while Lincoln sat languidly on a window couch gazing out at the expansive river, he revealed “I am actually a water person.”
Like many, it was romance that brought Lincoln to Fuzhou. Guangzhou was his first stop in China, and it was here that he met Lianna, who later became his wife. It wasn’t long after this that Lianna asked Lincoln to relocate with her back to Fuzhou, and it didn’t take long for him to say yes. Moving to a new city wasn’t new to Lincoln, but staying in the same city for almost 10 years was something that he never expected to happen. 4 years later, during the run-up to the Beijing Olympics and the subsequent crackdown on visas, Lincoln and Lianna tied the knot. But this decision had an even deeper meaning to Lincoln – it meant the end to a life of wandering. “After I settled in the marriage, I decided to settle in Fuzhou.”
As an oil painter, Lincoln’s art hangs in more than 20 galleries in different parts of the world, and he hasn’t slowed down one bit. It seems that Fuzhou has inspired him, even influencing him, much as he has influenced others. Most recently, he has sought to integrate local painting techniques into his style, especially lacquer, and frequently makes older buildings and abandoned structures the subjects of his paintings.
For those that knew Lincoln in his early days, he often seemed in a rush – always anxious, never satisfied. These days, Lincoln has become more patient at his craft, and the results have been impressive. He has cultivated friendships with local artists, like Tang Mingxiu, Wang Tianliang and Shen Ye, and shared with them his perspective on art and life. Through them he has really begun to appreciate the local lacquer production and the elaborate art of making it. “The preliminary work involved in painting with lacquer is enormous. You need to prepare a lot of materials and have a lot of patience before you even start.” This completely new perspective has redefined the concept of art to Lincoln, and had a dramatic impact on his paintings. At the age of 32, he moved to Fuzhou, adopted a carefree way of life familiar to so many artists, and never took the time to really perfect his style. At 42, Lincoln now sees more of himself on walks through Fuzhou’s alleys, spending time with family, sipping tea with friends, and taking his time creating art inspired by the thing that brings them all together – Fuzhou.
Lincoln was no longer anxious, no longer rushing. He said, “I always waited for time before, but now time awaits me.”
Transcript of Lincoln’s interview:
H: As an expat artist living here, what difference do you see in Fuzhou than other cities?
L: I found my life in Fuzhou quite helpful. It’s an interesting thing to talk with people that share your views. Many local artists were born and raised here, which is different than bigger cities like Beijing, Shanghai and Guanghou, where you see a lot of mobility in artists. The artists here would exhibit their works outside Fuzhou, but it will be a very difficult decision to make to leave Fuzhou for good. Another difference I can identify now is the freedom in art creation. A successful artist also needs to reproduce and repeat his own work. That’s a quite commercial thing to do. For example, one of your partings was successful and popular. Then you might need to reproduce 200 similar pieces. To me, it can hardly be called art. But in Fuzhou, I can enjoy more freedom at art.
H: What changes did you find in yourself after rubbing shoulders with local artists here?
L: I didn’t know lacqure paiting was so time-consuming until I made it here. So you gotta be patient. I’ll say I didn’t have much patience in my life, and I always pushed for a finish at my paitings. But I slowed down in Fuzhou, and stopped setting a deadline on myself. Or the deadline is when I finish it. I guess it has a lot to do with the tempo of the city, which proved to be a big inflence to me.
H: So how do you like Fuzhou now?
L: I enjoy working in a state of comfort and satisfication, which I mean home. After living here for 10 years, I have gotten used to calling it home. Many residents on this street know me today. They say hi to me when they see me going downstairs. I can even get discounts oftentime in the grocery store. I believe it’ll be hard for me to go back to Australia now. I think I can’t adapt to the lifestyle there today. It’s more happening here in Fuzhou. When I walk at 10 at night on the street, I see food stands where they do fried noodles. But the streets are so silent after 7 pm back in Australia. We went back to Australia many times after Fuzhou, also HK, Beijing etc. But I call Fuzhou home now. We are always coming back. It is a valued thing to be able to call a place home. You feel safe, comfortable, relaxed and at pease at home, so you will come back.
H: What changes did you find happened over the years?
L: Generally speaking, Fuzhou is very Chinese. When I first got here, I can’t even find a bread store. There is only one Pizza Hut where you can eat pizza, and there is only 1 McDald’s. The river was dirty. But it’s different now. You can buy virtually anything in Fuzhou. If not, you still have Taobao to go. We cook everyday at our kitchen. Hang out with Dana sometimes for a couple drinks, or a meal. In the rest of my time, I do paitings. It’s really great for me to be able to live by the water, and get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. No fast paces. We live in a way we define, and have our own rhythm. To get together with friendds, we host parties a couple times a year. We entertained around 100 guests on Thanksgiving last year. I like sharing my life and food with my friends. I am now able to find a subtle and comfortable balance between Chinese and Western lifestyle, because I’ve been here for quite a while.