Out of all the Chinese abstract painters, artist Mao Lizi can be said as one of the first that truly embodied what it means to create abstract paintings as a Chinese artist. However, he was not always an abstract painter. As one of the founding members of the Stars Group that emerged right after the end of the Cultural Revolution, he and his peers were set to change the perspective of the Chinese people. As a country that was still living in the traumatic experiences that were caused by the political pressures of that time, the artists of Stars Group championed individuality and freedom of speech.

During this time, Mao Lizi was known for his impressive hyper-realistic paintings. The style of hyperrealism can be said as the depiction of a reality that has become something else from what it is actually depicting as if the subjects have gone beyond our reality. In Mao Lizi’s paintings, he often depicted the minute details of the urban landscape; the artist captured the fading symbols during a critical moment of a changing era. Mao Lizi’s works during the 1980s is a different way of looking and a different experience of the surrounding reality. His works effectively framed the narrative of history in perhaps the most detailed form.

It is after a period in France that was spent teaching art during the 1990s then attempting to develop his career in architecture during the 2000s, Mao Lizi dedicated himself to create purely abstract forms. After his exposure to all sorts of Western abstraction traditions, Mao Lizi wanted to create what he believes is the true Chinese abstraction. As traditional Chinese art never deviated from figurative forms, this investigation leads him to create his most recent series of work in which he incorporates a sense of natural rhythm that is uncontrolled by the painter. He notes, “Before splashing, I think carefully about the structure of the painting as a rough idea. But to some extent, the final result is often beyond my control. The randomness is full of uncertainties, but it means it brought more possibilities and can develop into infinite paths.”

Mao Lizi’s style has changed dramatically over the years, from his previous hyper-realistic paintings to the now abstract splashes of color. Mao Lizi’s career seems to have gone from one extreme to the other. However, one thing that did not change was his constant urge to break his own boundaries, he was able to abandon old paths in order to face new challenges. And for that, Mao Lizi is a Chinese master of abstraction.