Liliane Lijn

Crossing Map


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Liliane Lijn born 1939
Cloth-bound printed slipcase containing bound book and 16 leporello lithographic prints on paper
Object: 239 × 142 × 176 mm
Purchased 2019


Crossing Map 1983–2002 is a deluxe edition of an artist’s book Lijn first published in 1983. This set was published by Thames and Hudson, London and New York by arrangement with Editions Hansjorg Mayer. It comes in a yellow cloth-bound slipcase and contains a signed and numbered copy of the book Crossing Map as well as sixteen leporello (concertina-folded) lithographic prints printed on Fabriano paper. The prints are separated into four sets in numbered cloth-bound slip cases. The text was written and illustrated by the artist in 1983, but its origins lie in an unpublished text called Time Zone which comprised extracts from her diaries beginning in November 1966. The narrative is presented in sixteen sections, with fifteen ‘Songs’ and one final ‘Postlude’. Loosely based on the artist’s own biography, the text traces the spiritual journey of a woman artist as she finds her voice, builds confidence and learns to balance the ‘outputs’ and ‘inputs’ of energy in order to ‘look through matter’. It describes her relationship with a man with whom she ‘build(s) a house of light’ on a hill and her subsequent move to a lonely and grey city where she eventually achieves artistic success with works that explore light and reflection. The work centres upon spiritual awakening through transcendence of the material body, with the narrator’s body eventually becoming ‘a river of light’ and entering a world of reflections. Art historian David Alan Mellor has described Crossing Map as employing ‘a language of transparency with which to invoke ideas of memory and temporality … a dissolving internal landscape of the mind (Mellor 2005, p.99).

This edition of Crossing Map consists of the bound unillustrated text alongside loose folded prints of repeated colourful patterns of cellular imagery that, as noted by Mellor, suggest ‘physiologies of visual perception’ such as nerves and blood vessels (Mellor 2005, p.100). In the original version of Crossing Map published in 1983, these images were overlaid onto the text and their colours shifted from copy to copy as Lijn manipulated the flow of ink during the printing process. Lijn considers the images to be a ‘visual score’ rather than illustrations, ‘as if the writing were lyrics that could be set to music, and the music could be seen instead of heard’ (quoted on the artist’s website,, accessed August 2018). More recently Lijn has performed Crossing Map live on a number of occasions, including two broadcasts for the London-based radio station Resonance 104.4 FM in 2011 and 2014.

Lijn has described the process of creating Crossing Map as transformative in a shift that occurred in the character of her work during the late 1970s and 1980s. She wrote:

In the abstract purity of forms, light and energy, I had not confronted the darker aspects of reality. It was during this period that I began consciously to confront my own shadow and that of the world ... I started by drawing, and the drawings during this period – 1984 – were feminine forms which I called SHE. These drawings eventually led to a change in my three-dimensional work.
(Lijn 2001, p.72.)

Lijn’s subsequent three-dimensional work articulates a feminist imagery through references to female mythology and personal biography, including the monumental performing Goddesses (Lady of the Wild Things 1983 and Women of War 1986), the small series of blown glass Torn Heads 1986–90 and later bronze works cast from the artist’s body (Lilith 2001) and incorporating video (Paradise Lost 2000).

Further reading
Liliane Lijn, in conversation with Guy Brett, ‘Lijn – Brett: An E-mail Dialogue’, in Light and Memory, exhibition catalogue, Rocca di Umbertide Centro per l’Arte Contemporanea, Perugia 2002, pp.69–83.
David Alan Mellor, Liliane Lijn: Works 1959–1980, exhibition catalogue, Mead Gallery, Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry 2005.
Liliane Lijn, in conversation with Althea Greenan, ‘Adrift in the depth of our mind’s eye’, in Cosmic Dramas, exhibition catalogue, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art 2013, pp.34–49.
Anna McNay, ‘Liliane Lijn: Interview’, Studio International, 12 February 2014,, accessed 21 August 2018.

Laura Castagnini
August 2018

Does this text contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? We would like to hear from you.

You might like