James Cohan Gallery Shanghai is pleased to present new works by Shanghai-based artist Li Wenguang, opening May 12 and running through June 22. This will be the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery.
Li Wenguang is known for his highly subjective and idiosyncratic works, many of which have been based on notions of pseudoscientific equations, personal diaries, and dream interpretation. Continuing his exploration of these themes, his recent works are delving further into the territory of the subconscious. Li, who is a completely self-taught artist, presents his works on rice paper mounted to traditional Chinese silk scrolls, using a combination of pen, brush, tea, ink, acrylic and oil paint.
The exhibition will feature new works from three distinctive and ongoing series: Withered Plant, Solo Dance, and Science Fiction. Extending the idea of botanical illustration of traditional flower painting, Li’s drawings and mixed-media works are labor-intensive diagrams of half-blooming, half-withering plants. In the Solo Dance scrolls, the artist uses his own footprints to create a choreography and movement staged against a grid resembling bricks or tiles. Together with the artist’s footsteps, words in Chinese and English (“loneliness”, "faith”, "pursue”, "courage”) suggest a transition from past to future, but without imposing rational connections to the meanings of the words or phrases, and thus leaving it open to interpretation by the viewer.
Also on view will be Li’s latest Science Fiction works. Here we encounter spaces where the traditional and futuristic collide. In this series, too, there are apparent commentaries on environmental concerns, specifically about water, and the exploitation of water resources on the planet. Li’s vision is a post-human, non-carbon world where water itself has become a living, conscious entity. The creation of these new pieces is also based on accident and chance, and on the artist’s use of fundamental chemistry: oil and water. By first pouring water and oil paint on sheets of plastic, allowing the paint to mix as thoroughly as possible against the film, it is then transferred to the surface of the rice paper. When it is removed, it creates a traditional shan-shui effect, leaving traces which often appear as mountains or geological formations.
Li Wenguang was born in Shanghai in 1985. Previous exhibitions include Stir Gallery Shanghai in 2011; Huating Space Shanghai; Songjiang, Shanghai in 2010, 2011; and the Shangyuan Art Museum, Beijing, 2012. His work was also featured in group projects at the James Cohan Gallery Shanghai in 2012.