Even if it endeavours to delve into the multiple lures of reality, figurative painting doesn’t confine itself to an analytical message, and as in music, cannot be told. Admittedly, it calls on its materiality by reference to Kandinsky sentence, “The content of painting, is painting”, but concurrently, it conveys affects, desires and rejection, an identity, a memory, sometimes a relationship to sociality and the wondrous.

The painting of Li Zi, doesn't escape this fabric of entanglements and convergences, often connoted by snippets of personal history and leaning for reverie, in that she combines reality and symbol in the same furrow, until her own mythology passes from idea to language. And this language in quest for a lost world, continuously started again, secretes a phantasmagoria tinted with a tense melancholy, where fierceness of the animal kingdom gauges itself to a tree-lined nature, inside perimeters ruled by linear geometric landmarks.

But beyond the structural thoroughness that creates so many parts in the painting, a crepuscular impression soaks these fragmented spaces devoid of humans, where sleepy antique statues or façades of isolated buildings covered in vegetation, stand out from time to time, which dramatization, rendered by the impact of the “non-colours”, leaves us with a feeling of confinement and mystery. “I have always liked to feel the mystery” confirms Li Zi, “and I most particularly find it in the vast expanses of forested areas of Northern Europe, silent and inhospitable, through pictures taken during my travels, if not by friends, photos that I reward in my way, out of any submission to the traditional aesthetic of my country.”

Anyway, what immediately strikes in this wild bestiary surrounded by high timberland, is the appearance/disappearance aspects of the animals, this truncated vision, as if surreptitiously fixed. Indeed, here, few intact images, one will rather say, unfinished, thus they never name, but cultivate a studied blur, marbled and cracked surfaces, which the fluid and rippling matter absorbs little by little, strange universe, that equally plays on the share of abstraction contained in every reality. 

However, more than medallion-like or overlaid portraits, decrepit walls or tired houses, luminous enclaves, solitary boats, or ghostly shadows, it is both the immanent power of the selva and the angry leopards' round which give body and meaning to this iconography, though with a difference in their semantic process. On one side, the large, gaunt trees occupy and outline the canvas edge to edge, with the authority of their deaf ramifications and their telluric impetus, while wild beasts seem to emerge by breaking in out of a gaseous earth in gestation, coated by withered colours made-up by slight runs, in an unreal brightness, whereas other times, the referent extracts itself from a gangue further shimmered, studded by spilled of tiny tears in cascade.

Nevertheless, whatever the elected patterns and the retained technical approaches, it is the same modus operandi that guides the painter hand and mind, resorting to arithmetic line to seal approximations and gauge the rhythm of the composition. In ridge or triangle, quadrilateral or oblique, broken, or continuous, coal-like or refined, that is what arouses distances, and places compatibility between contrary tensions, while bringing the scale of its powers.

Everything, in these regions, concur to synthesis: the mastery in construction, the controlled ease in spontaneity of the touch, the sobriety in the sharing-out of blacks and whites, the accuracy in the firmness of the drawing, the dosage in the virulence of the expression, and last, the intelligence of the painting, in the alliance of renunciation and proliferation.

A native of Wuhan, Hubei, and based in Beijing, thus heiress to a thousand-year-old culture, Li Zi has not turned to rehashing the stereotypes of her heritage, no more toward the ultimate jolts of fashion. From her favourite themes and her taste for mixed technics, she forged her own path, and if she has borrowed some guises from western contemporary art, it is to take advantage of them in her practice. A subtle, finely nuanced, and invigorating practice, which reveals a rare and singular artist.