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UV Light Reveals a Constellation of Invisible Ink Illustrations

Aowen Jin's secret wall drawings depict scenes of gods and goddesses from ancient Chinese mythology.

by Kevin Holmes
Feb 27 2015, 3:00pm

Images Jayden Tang via artist's website

Chinese-born Briitsh artist Aowen Jin has hand-drawn a series of invisible ink illustrations, which can only be seen under UV light, on the walls and floor of the Music Gallery Performance Space at the Horniman Museum in south London. The installation, called i18n (short for "Internationalization and Localization," which refers to the adaptation of software to different regions and languages), covers the entire room in scenes from ancient Chinese mythology. To discover the murals, visitors must explore the space holding special UV torches.

“The idea of the installation is to create a secret and hidden art world, which can only reveal itself if the viewers are bothered to find it and discover it by themselves.” Jin says about the piece. The traditional drawings range in size from around 3' to over 15' wide, depicting gods and myths from Chinese culture, like the story of the monkey from 16th century novel Journey to the West. Nebulous cloud illustrations adorn the floor. 

The Horniman Museum itself was founded by Victorian tea trader Frederick John Horniman, who brought artifacts from around the world back to London so ordinary Victorians could experience cultures from across the globe.

Speaking about what influenced her to create these works, Jin explains, "The world of the internet, that's transforming our views, hence the name i18n. We are always looking and expecting something newer, it seems that not only in the West but the Chinese themselves are bothered about the modern China. Now everyone in China, from the president to the average Chinese person on the street, complains about the diminishment of historical Chinese values and culture. With economic progress, this rich and magical history has disappeared from contemporary China, to be replaced by cars, handbags and CG'ed blockbuster films. That's why I want to draw everyone's attention to these powerful art works and culture like the Mogao Caves which attracted the West to China in the first place."

i18n featured as part of the Chinese Late event which took place on Thursday, February 26, 2015 at the Horniman Museum and Gardens.

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