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Art runs in his blood

Updated: 2013-09-25 09:11
By Han Bingbin (China Daily)

Limelight | Tim Yip

Art runs in his blood

Renowned costume designer and art director Tim Yip was once so disillusioned that he wanted a career change. Fortunately, the talented artist persevered and lived to tell his tale. Han Bingbin reports.

Tim Yip's unspeaking Muse and companion is a phantasmagoric girl of 17. Across Taipei, Beijing and Shanghai, he has placed her behind the wheel of a car, eating in a night market or drinking in a crowded bar. She dresses with style, but looks unassuming and reveals no clues of exceptional identity. Her name is Lili, a doll. As he does with film stars, renowned costume designer and art director Yip draws on her familiar face - a face that people feel comfortable with and grow fond of.

In 2008, Yip was invited by Today Museum to dabble in modern arts. Lili was one of the first three sculptures that Yip used to experiment with the musicality of human bodies, with which he became obsessed as a fan of European classical sculptures.

She started off as a hairless and naked doll with a pensive demeanor. Without serious planning, Yip started taking her to different places, putting her in various situations while dressing her differently, and then taking hundreds of photos. Through an exhibition at Beijing's Three Shadows Gallery, Yip believes Lili's inspiring ordinariness will remind viewers of just anyone they want her to be.

"When you stare at her for more than one minute, the communication starts. She will allow you to recall many things," Yip says.

In the curator Mark Holborn's words, we may find some element of erotic history in her gaze, just as we may find some sense of loss or of the passage of time as we catch a glance of her.

"This work can all of a sudden reveal a man's complication, so it's very powerful," Yip says.

Having been absent from his resounding art directing business for some years, Yip however is by no means off his track. Calling himself more a photographer than an art director, Yip started taking photos of film stars when he was still a photography student at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

Painting is another of his fortes. In the late 1980s, his winning pieces at a painting contest drew the attention of film director Tsui Hark. He was chosen as the art director for A Better Tomorrow III (1989) and helped make the trench coat-wrapped romantic gunfighter one of Chow Yun-fat's most classic and adorable screen images ever.

From there, he drove his career smoothly on track with his name appearing in prominent productions such as Stanley Kwan's Rouge (1988) and Full Moon in New York (1989). He also went to Taiwan, which he calls the turning point in his life, to formally experiment with traditional Chinese culture by working with avant-garde stage artists like Lin Hwai-min and his Cloud Gate Dance Theater.


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