Fantasies on Paper and Enchantments in Gold – Solo Exhibition of Li Huayi

Date:2017-09-12 Browsing Times:307

Date: 2017. 09. 27 - 12. 17

Venue: Contemporary Art Gallery, Suzhou Museum

Following the wide-spread enthusiasm for the Shanghai style of paintings, the traditional style of Chinese painting popularized by the Literati group went on a steady decline. The scholars’ gentle and refined amusement soon gave way to worldly flamboyance. But even with such paradigm shifts, the linear heritage of techniques in traditional ink painting was still clearly recognizable.

Since the beginning of modernism, painting styles in the new era have sought to abandon the routinization of the literati while persisting in using Chinese methods as the basic technique. Artists of today have long been accustomed to techniques and ideologies on the other side of the ocean; and so, Western techniques would in some cases take the dominating rather than the supporting role, or in other be applied in a primarily Chinese art creation. Beneath the surface of diversified art forms, there is an abundance of similar characteristics.

Li Huayi was born in Shanghai. He had learned from famous masters of Chinese painting at a young age, and was particularly enlightened by landscape paintings. He further studied Western painting when he was sixteen, and later became well versed in the modern as well the antique, Western as well as Chinese arts. After several years as an adult in America, and having felt the impact of cultural diversity, he retreated totally from the glamor of modern art and returned to traditional painting in ink. With brushstrokes coming strictly from his heart, and in a light and refined style, Li Huayi has created his own unique form that gives us a refreshing breath of renaissance air.

In his landscapes, one can see majestic ranges from the art of the Song dynasty at its pinnacle, burly, serene, and elegant. These hallmark qualities pour out from the high mountains, ancient trees, cliffs and rugged crags, simply unrestrained. Viewing these paintings, it is as if you are looking at the works of Jing Hao and Guan Tong. But if you look carefully ahead, you will find distinctive differences in the familiarity. This is a product of the dialogue between the complete understanding of Western techniques and the reflection of an aesthetic ideal.

This exhibition includes representative works from different eras of Li Huayi’s art – the Monumental Landscapes series, the Water Scenes series, the Multiple Screens Installation series, and the Gilded Screens series. Each of the 18 pieces in this selection is a masterpiece. They are mellow and elegant, simultaneously carrying the baton of the Tang and Song dynasties’ exquisite paintings and the moving sensations of modern Western art. While the works are created on paper and ink of the modern time, they are also a contemplation of ancient landscapes. Through several decades of re-creation, Li Huayi has opened a new chapter of brush and ink that integrate Chinese and Western art. Modernism and antiquity congeal to become Fantasies on Paper and Enchantments in Gold.

Chen Ruijin

Director of Suzhou Museum