Yu Lanyin

You have to live your life your way to find out life’s meaning. Nobody can tell you how you should think.

People might pass by a building in Santa Clara with a large and faded Central Computers sign on the front without a second thought. But if they venture to the fourth floor, they will find that tucked away inside is Silicon Valley Asian Art Center, a place of quiet beauty.

Recently, the space hosted 35 ink paintings depicting the ocean, an exhibition entitled “Journey into the Deep and Within” by Chinese American artist Yu Lanyin. The ocean holds a siren-like quality to Lanyin, and her deep fascination with this underwater world has led her to take up deep sea diving and to then convey her experiences through her artwork.

Lanyin’s paintings veer away from the sharp lines and strict replication of realistic ocean portrayals. Instead, she leaves room for the viewer to translate, opening a channel for creativity through a little obscurity. In this painter’s opinion, “You have to live your life your way to find out life’s meaning. Nobody can tell you how you should think.” Though she has experimented with many different mediums, Lanyin finds that the flow of water and ink on rice paper best captures this intention. Furthermore, this medium is also compatible with the movement of the water, the rippling sunlight on its surface, and the nonconformists of basic shapes—rocks and coral.

Lanyin also finds that ink works best to reveal the spiritual nature of her art. Paintings have become her way of reaching a state of meditation. “I can better utilize ink to express my awareness, my attainment of transcendence in the deep sea.” Lanyin says.

In fact, Lanyin’s paintings center around this idea. “I’ve always loved the inner search,” she says. “I remember when I was five or six I used to ask my parents why I had to be good, why I had to go to school. They would tell me, and I would say, ‘Then what?’ ‘Then you grow up.’ ‘Then what?’ ‘Then you graduate.’ ‘And then what?’ ‘Then you’ll work.’ And I just kept on asking. Actually what I was asking for was the meaning of life—why?”

“[Art is] a communication tool just like language,” Lanyin explains. It brings people into a conversation, and clears their minds from the clutter of day to day life. The Silicon Valley Asian Art Center invites visitors to invest some of their free time in self-reflection and soul-searching through art. Though Lanyin’s exhibit has just concluded, there are many upcoming exhibitions at the center, including ink paintings by Wang Chang-Chieh (October 26–November 9), James Liu (November 12–24), and Cheng Yet-Por (November 26–December).

Written by Johanna Hickle
Photography by Daniel Garcia

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