The Story Behind Taiwanese Artist Michael Lin's Paintings on Local Pedicabs | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Taiwanese artist Michael Lin
Taiwanese artist Michael Lin

You know one of Buddhism’s four noble truths which states that if you let go of material things and desires, and leave them be, it will give you peace? I never could quite internalize that prospect until I stumbled upon Michael Lin’s Locomotion exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design in Manila last week.

Before going here, the only thing I knew of Michael is that he paints colorful floral murals on building walls—something that he likes to call an “architectural intervention.” And as we entered the almost-bare museum space, unsurprisingly, a wall painted with bright shades of red and yellow welcomed us. Aside from the massive wall art, another thing I noticed in the space were several stools painted in the same motif—it was like solving a puzzle—and the occasional appearances of pedicabs inside the gallery also with Michael’s signature bright patterns painted on them.

preen michael lin locomotion 3

The idea of painting on pedicabs and letting them drive around Manila was kind of odd, to be honest. It’s a great way to showcase art because it’s mobile, and it’ll reach the most obscure areas of the city. But how can you paint on something that, in time, will fade, especially given the urban situation and pollution of Metro Manila? Wouldn’t it be a waste if something he worked hard on be ruined or tampered with?

Later, these questions not only applied to the repainted pedicabs, but also the possible state of the walls he painted in the past, as well as the chairs that were used by attendees that night.

Since Michael already had several interviews lined up for him that night, we instead got to talk to the head of exhibitions Fatima Manalili.

She explains that Michael is the type of artist who breaks the boundaries of a usual painting which usually appears on a canvas; that he likes painting on things that people most interact with, hence, the several wall paintings he’s done, plus the chairs and the pedicabs.

“With these works it’s always more about community engagement so he kind of wanted to merge that interest in cycling and [his previous works,] and he came up with this idea to exchange [works with pedicab drivers]. Because when he saw the [tarpaulins on the pedicabs], he saw that they were personalized and so he liked the iconography that was there. But he didn’t want just to take their tarps away, it was more like ‘That’s their work, and this is my work, so let’s exchange,’” she says.

“As for the chairs, he calls [them] “Untitled Gathering,” which encourages people to sit and catch up with each other,” she continues.

"Untitled Gathering"
“Untitled Gathering”

When asked of the inevitable future of Michael’s works in the hectic metro, Fatima tells us that he’s not the least bit worried about them being ruined.

“His work is not about precious objects,” she says. “It’s more about something that the viewer can interact with, and that’s just the nature of it. He knows that the stools are going to get worn out and manhandled, and he’s totally okay with that. [As for the] pedicabs, he wants his art to roam around and spread everywhere. I guess you can say that Locomotion is about something moving towards something.”

As she explained this to us, it got me thinking: Maybe this is Michael’s way of saying that all things serve a purpose and will eventually be vulnerable to fading—that nothing’s ever permanent in this world, including his art, and he has absolutely no problem letting them go.

But what will stay ingrained in people’s minds, however, is that once upon a time, a Taiwanese artist named Michael Lin took the humble aspects of Manila and turned them into something unexpectedly beautiful and actually made people pay attention to them.

Locomotion by Michael Lin will run from Feb. 18 to May 21 at the Museum of Contemporary Art and Design, Malate, Manila.


Photos by Paolo Tabuena

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