Chinese painter Xie Molin may come from a traditional background—he studied at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing and the Edinburgh College of Art—but that hasn’t stopped him from questioning the traditional way of painting. Strongly influenced while studying in the UK, he was inspired by the multidisciplinary exchange between the arts and natural sciences, and ever since has been focused on the form of painting and the study of tools. Now he modifies drawing machines with the purpose of exploring new ways of painting.
Below are some images of paintings executed by the “XYZ Triaxial Linkage Painting Machine” that Molin customized by transforming an axial cutting plotter, which is a tool commonly found in ad production houses that cuts out shapes in vinyl and other materials. Molin replaced the cutting part with a pencil, pen, calligraphy brush, paint extruder and even a scraper to experiment with different techniques. As opposed to the purely human painterly gesture, his process of painting is semi-automatic—he puts acrylic paint on canvas and processes the graphical pattern in the computer. Then as the motor drives the rotation of the machine, the artist’s imagined image appears on the canvas.
Molin’s paintings show intensive mechanical strokes and meticulous details, with both texture and layers revealing a sense of industrialism, displaying minimal, abstract aesthetics that transpose an obvious artistic charm.
When writing for his graduation thesis Molin said:
In the UK and Europe, due to the long-term scientific and technological environment, many artists have applied the technical applications from other fields to the creation of art, such as the Boyle family and Christine Borland from UK. Even in the more remote history, the fact that Vermeer produced superior paintings using self-made image tools is a good example of the inseparable relationship between technology and art. While in China, tradition and history is also the reason why the interaction of art and technology is still a new topic. If the carving machine is my first painting machine, then is it possible that I might invent a painting machine with more possibilities?
The single, unchanging rule in all of this is that the artist shapes his tools, in this case he appropriates industrial machinery to create unique objects. It’s exciting to see that even a centuries old medium such as painting still has much room for exploration and experimentation as artists go about extracting ideas from different disciplines to create new tools and techniques.