“All human beings are tangled in a variety of invisible networks.”

Born Nanjiang, Sichuan, 1975

At first sight, Song Yulin’s paintings look like meshes or nets of lines, but after a few minutes it becomes clear that there is something behind them. Usually it is a face: it might be Mao Zedong (as in Formatted: God of War) or Marilyn Monroe. The artist discovered her net motif by accident. After completing a portrait she was less than happy with, she drew lines all over it. “My intention was to destroy my work,” she says. But she found that her first set of criss-crossings did not completely efface the image. “There was still some of the original face left behind. So I went over it again … And as I did, I found that I was creating something new.” Her technique, she realised, resembled the formatting of a computer hard drive by dividing it into blocks or partitions. If the drive has data on it, this may not be entirely erased, only written over. The process was also like the formation of memories, which the brain lays down one upon another until until even the most vivid experiences grow dim.


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