LONG MUSEUM WEST BUND
|Academic Director||Wang Pengjie|
|Executive Curator||Liu Yuan|
This exhibition primarily showcases the artist’s recent works since 2019. There is no longer a clear subject in most of them. The wildlands are overgrown with flowers and plants that seem to release their true wildness for the first time, and the originally elegant and fresh hues have transformed into deeper, heavier grays. The composition, which is fragmented, rugged, and somewhat abrupt, creates a chaotic space opening towards a holographic direction. The painter's feelings unfold layer by layer, and the coexistence of growth and decay in the forms imbues the painting with a sense of temporal paradox and compression. The prolonged images allow the viewers to become more immersed in viewing. They need not perceive these paintings as mere flowers or grass, but rather, they can enter this emotionally intense, yet rational world filled with complex feelings, gradually seek out the cues that stimulate their subconscious.
The expansion of the theme from Garden to Private Season is not only driven by language exploration, but more importantly, the painter's evolving understanding of life. As an artist, Li Qiang seems to be experiencing a profound sense of tragedy and absurdity due to the constraints imposed by reality and has developed a stronger self-awareness of his colorful yet absurdly powerless life journey. In an incidental short trip, he stumbled upon a desolate grassland. The withering yet tenacious wildflowers and weeds aroused his interest. Upon returning to his studio, he began using the images captured during this trip as source material for his pastel and oil paintings. From these rugged and decaying scenes, he perceived something new—a palpable, vast vitality, which inspired his awareness of life. In recent years, he has truly established a fluid and profound emotional connection with the subjects he paints. This connection arose from the fact that the images are no longer entirely under his own control, with the randomness and uncertainty of color surpassing his previous works. Starting from this series of wilderness, he deliberately delves into themes of decay and death, striving to strip away adornments. The desolation of spiritual life propels his art towards a path of simple internal transcendence.
Although the image of the desolate wilderness appears quite decadent, it leads the painter to communicate with his soul with the utmost sincerity, discarding any unnecessary embellishments. Within the chaos and entanglement of the grass lies the painter's impulse and instinct. Unlike in the past, Li Qiang no longer cautiously controls the composition or emphasizes clear hierarchies in technique. He has become more receptive to the raw sensations of his body, painting with a free and uninhibited spirit. This artistic direction is becoming increasingly clear, the abstracted wilderness serves as a universal metaphor for all life. The expansive sense of life consciousness imbues these new works with a different spiritual intensity. Regarding the liberation of both spirit and body, his recent series of works centered around ponds goes even further. Water is ever-changing, so he does not feel the need to depict specific and trivial shapes and textures. His eyes, hands, and mind are liberated. His brushstrokes are sharper and more dynamic, and the use of color is more subjective and unrestrained. Frequently, his physicality surpasses rationality. These subconscious traces are often preserved on the canvas, indicating Li Qiang's embrace of bodily reactions and the flow of consciousness. For this traditionally disciplined artist, he, for the first time in these paintings, breaks free from the confines of perception. Through practice, he overcomes the technical constraints he was previously subjected to, thus attaining a newfound bodily freedom.
The works in the exhibition are traces of Li Qiang’s continuous struggle to his ‘old self’. He is always attentive to contemporary social issues in China while seeking spiritual liberation through the pursuit of ultimate aestheticism as well. Both presence and liberation are equally important to him. His ongoing efforts constantly tug at the stability and variability of his inner world, providing valuable opportunities for his practice to gradually evolve towards self-awareness—the traces of ‘seeing one’s true nature.’ He sheds many technical ‘armors’, returning to a more authentic and sincere painter, demonstrating determination and aspiration in the process of resisting aesthetic inertia. In his recent works, the strange and bold forms exude a vigorous struggle, and the continuous emergence of sharpness, purity, and wildness indicates his movement towards an internal state of liberation.