Born in Shanghai in 1965, Li Lei became immersed in the study and practice of abstract art in 1996. Now, almost twenty years after he began to interpret and express the core concepts of Chinese culture through the language of abstract art, a month-long exhibition of Li Lei’s work will take place in Hong Kong. Equally knowledgeable about Chinese philosophy and Abstract Art of the West, the artist’s creative journey has led him to concentrate on an Abstract Art of the East. Li Lei’s abstract art is deeply imbued with poetry and lyricism and his approach is multi-sensory and interdisciplinary.
The exhibition “Water to Water: Abstract Art by Li Lei” is divided into five segments: Chapter One - Spring; Chapter Two - Summer; Chapter Three - Autumn; Chapter Five – Winter; and Chapter Five – Lost in Venice.
The paintings inspired by the four seasons show nature’s many moods and colours: the seasons that lead into each other show a natural, organic progression while opposite seasons show a dramatic clash. Li Lei’s abstract depictions of the four seasons rely on the rhythms of the brush, astute use of colours and sensitivity to composition. It is an entirely contemporary way of approaching this subject, which, in traditional Chinese art, relies on depictions of flowers specific to each season instead.
The “Lost in Venice” section of the exhibition communicates the artist’s recent experience in Venice, where he was one of eleven artists participating in the Biennale’s “Friendship Project – China” organized by The Republic of San Marino. Li Lei was among the artists who transformed the rooms of Venice’s famed 16th century Palazzo Rota Ivancich. Li Lei has created an Abstract Art of the East, but global issues concern him deeply, especially the international language of art. In Venice, he juxtaposed his abstract paintings with long, hanging banners and other objects to give visitors an immersive, multisensory experience as they traversed from room to room in the Palazzo. Li Lei’s life as an artist is driven by immense creativity. He sees the artist as creator and provocateur, and also an agent of change whose art is a catalyst guiding viewers through experiences that can open doors to the sublime and the highest peaks of aesthetic appreciation.
Water is the most malleable and fluid of substances; one of the five elements, it is essential to life. Confucius’s well-known adage from the Analects states that “The wise find pleasure in water” (知者樂水). But it is Laozi’s statement in the Daodejing “Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid, soft, and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard” that demonstrates how the art exhibited in “Water to Water: Abstract Art by Li Lei” can wear away any resistance to the idea of a contemporary, relevant and compelling Abstract Art of the East as it is embodied in the work of Li Lei.
- Catherine Maudsley, Guest Curator
August 16, 2015 Hong Kong
Hong Kong Arts Centre - 5/F Pao Galleries, 2 Harbour Road, Wan Chai, Hong Kong
Shang Hai Moca
In Association With:
Tongji University School of Humanities
Hong Kong Arts Centre