Chinese ink painter Li Huasheng is on show at the Mayor Gallery & Masterpiece

Li Meditation Room

Li Huasheng  The Meditation Room at The Mayor Gallery, London


London’s Mayor Gallery is showing a selection of recent ink paintings on paper by Li Huasheng (b. 1944, Yibin, Sichuan Province). This is a rare opportunity to admire the revealing abstract works by this self-imposed reclusive Chinese artist whose paintings have been collected by respected international institutions including the British Museum, Metropolitan Museum, M+ and the National Art Museum of China.

After studying socialist realism, Chinese traditional painting, seal carving and calligraphy, Li quickly became one of the foremost traditional Chinese landscape painters of his generation, distinguishing himself in China and abroad for his original, vibrant and colourful water-and-mountain landscapes. The five-month official trip to the US where he was invited to partake in various lectures and exhibitions in some of the most prestigious American universities in 1987 resulted in a dramatic change in his life and artistic practice. Li’s repeated exposure to works by international artists in the US triggered a chain reaction of reflections on Chinese art history and to an escalating process of radical life transformation.

In near complete seclusion, Li barely painted throughout the following decade. It is in this period that Li began his increasingly frequent ventures to Tibet. During one of these journeys, Li was inspired by the image of the lines formed by the Tibetan monks marching toward Jokhang temple, and by their repeated chanting of the mantra “Om Mani Padme Um”. From that moment, Li began to visualize existence in the form of a line. “Our life is based on time,” the artist commented. “Time represents the preciousness of every person’s existence. Through the flowing of my lines I am preserving and registering my personal time.”

Starting from the late Nineties, the line becomes the artist’s most fundamental expressive cipher and reflects Li’s mental and physical state at the time of its execution. Reminiscent of an ECG trace measuring the electrical activity of the heart, it records the rhythm of the artist’s qi (气, ‘vital energy’), the slightest fluctuations of which are detectable in the inherent character of the brushstrokes—speed, force, turn, pause and direction of the brush. Since the beginning of his breakthrough into abstraction, Li has adopted a strict work routine based on meditation and controlled reiteration of the gesture. Slowly seeping into the overall pictorial structure of his ink paintings on paper, completed from 1997 onwards, this methodology leads to the formal systematization of intersecting freehand linear compositions arranged in grid-like configurations inspired by architectural elements and natural patterns. Alongside his lines and black and white grids, during the last twenty years, Li has developed an increasingly radical formal simplification of both Chinese calligraphy, of which he evidences the track and speed in abstract double-layered compositions combined with grids, and the natural landscape, where the majestic Himalayan peaks are portrayed either in the artist’s sublime “one stroke paintings” style or in his rarefied and highly spiritual series known as “misty landscapes”.

Li’s works are in the permanent collections of the National Art Museum of China, Beijing; British Museum; Metropolitan Museum of Art; the Chicago Art Institute; Art Museum, Shanghai; Guangdong Museum of Art; He Xiangning Art Museum-OCT Contemporary Art Terminal; and permanent collections of Harvard University, Yale University, University of Michigan and University of Washington.

Li Huasheng

If you can’t make it to the show, do at least drop by the Mayor Gallery stand at Masterpiece where there will be a single work on show.


Lo Ch’ing exhibits brush & ink paintings in London


Lo Ch’ing Densely Developed Peach Blossom Spring (2013) Ink & colour on paper

Lo Ch’ing is a multi-talented, charismatic Chinese painter, poet, calligrapher, literary essayist and art critic in the ancient and honourable tradition of the scholar artist. In a world where it is often possible to be gratified by an artist’s work whilst at the same time basically puzzled by it, and dubious of its achievement, Lo Ch’ing’s work stands out  for its evident skill and accomplishment.

His work is being presented in London by Michael Goedhuis – you can see it at Masterpiece until July 2 (Royal Hospital Chelsea South Grounds) and thereafter drop along to Goedhuis at 61 Cadogan Square where it is on display until September 1 (telephone 020 7823 1395).

Lo Ch’ing was born in Qingdao and brought up in Taiwan where he absorbed his knowledge of Chinese humanities and arts, as well as Western literature. He often displays a wry, amused view of life: his published books (for children) include works of poetry with titles like That Smelly Old Tom-Cat and The Interesting Life of a Snail.

Michael Goedhuis observes of his work, ‘Both in his poetry and painting, which are emphatically contemporary in form and intention, he remains linked to the cultural values of the Chinese literati. The purpose of civilised man, according to this elite of scholars, was to become part of the dynamic rhythm of creation and to contribute to the coherent ordering of society. And it was through the practice of panting and poetry and calligraphy that the scholar also realised his own humanity by cultivating and developing the inner life. It has been Lo ‘Ching’s purpose and achievement to carry forward this tradition through works that contain subtle references, both in their titles and in their subject matter, to the great narratives and myths of Chinese history, whilst at the same time expressing his sympathy for and grasp of international high modernism.’

Lo Ch’ing has not exhibited in London for more than twenty years. There are 25 brush and ink paintings on show in the current exhibition.