Born 1939 New York, United States
Liliane Lijn rose to prominence in the 1960s at the forefront of artmaking with new technologies and materials, likely being the first female artist to exhibit a work incorporating an electric motor. Lijn studied Archaeology at the Sorbonne and Art History at the Ecole du Louvre in Paris (1958), followed by time in New York and Athens, where she continued her experiments with plastics using fire and acids. Now based in London after settling in 1966, her practice spans a variety of media, including film, performance, and collage, but she is perhaps best known for her kinetic (moving) sculptures. Through her work, Lijn seeks to uncover the essence of reality through an exploration of the poetic relation between art, science, technology, eastern philosophy, and feminine mythology. Openness to change is another important component of her artistic exploration – the idea that change is not destruction, nor is keeping things the same creation.
Black Koan (1990) is part of a series of cone-shaped artworks made by artist Liliane Lijn. They engage with her long-standing interest in kinetic artforms, with the sculptural iterations designed to spin. The motion of spinning makes the horizontal sections appear to rise and form, and thereby lose form. The falling arcs etched on the surface of Black Koan allude to such movement.
‘Kōan’ is a Japanese word derived from Zen Buddhism to describe a paradox to be meditated upon. The meditation of such paradoxes trained monks to abandon dependence on reason. In the case of Lijn’s work, koans are a means to focus the mind in order to invite new perspectives, specifically upon female identity. Lijn explains, ‘When the koans oscillate, the more you look at them the less you see the body. And that’s what interested me because I was very interested in dematerialization – in the idea of losing the body. And that was related in a way to being a woman.’ Movement for Lijn is a means to unveil invisible life forces in order to unveil a fresh feminine perspective.