Art+ Shanghai Gallery proudly announces On the Horizon, a solo exhibition from Li Wei examining her artistic practice and engagement in the cultural foundations of traditional Chinese painting. This presentation is the first solo exhibition of Wei’s work in Shanghai and comprises a stunning selection of new mixed-media paintings.
Through a surrounding of landscapes, the exhibition focuses on a central theme of transforming nature into abstraction. The important selection of paintings offers a distinct look at Wei’s determination to re-interpret contemporary scenery through traditional painting concepts that express the essential elements of form and allusion. It equally illustrates her emphasis and interest in the traditional aesthetic of Chinese ink painting from the Song Dynasty.
The dominant influence on Wei’s work during the last year is attributed to the Southern Song court in Hangzhou, particularly the water and mountain paintings of court painter Ma Yuan (1165-1125). Ma Yuan is credited as co-founding the Ma-Xia school of painting aimed at creating a feeling of limitless space by downplaying the emphasis of pictorial representation in paintings. Wei’s compositions are similarly minimal leaving most of the silk or paper bare and showing only slight mountain peaks or waves of water emerging.
Wei has developed a complex practice with several stages from the initial silk-screening and carbon paper tracing to the final application of pigment, and use of simplified ink and oil tones to increase the dramatic impact, a laborious effort is made to achieve the desired effect. The use of traditional materials has been an important part of her work in depicting the present day countryside of China. While her paintings are firmly rooted in real sceneries from the photos she takes, they develop largely from the realm of her own imagination allowing for a great deal of visitor interpretation when viewing the artwork.
In addition to ink paintings on silk and paper, the exhibition includes an important selection carbon works that trace the process of Wei’s artistic practice. For the first time she will also present seal works that evaluate their use in Chinese painting. Seals have traditionally been applied as an accent or signature in paintings, but Wei employs them as essential part of the canvas, illustrated in such works as “Water Mountain.” The painting can be divided into two, the ink painting of the mountain and the handmade seal representing water with pictorial image of a river rather then using the radical for water.
On the Horizon presents a small but remarkable survey of artwork from one living artist dedicated to the interpretation of traditional Chinese media and materials in her practice. This extraordinary presentation of three different media provides a rare opportunity to view the work of one of China’s foremost emerging female artists.