Lost in Marsh


Dr. Fan Liu

“Lost” is a feeling haunting with people at any age in any community, which might be the lost of space, emotion, spirit, belief, or even ego …… People are constantly thrown into the panic of fate finalization due to the changeability of the outside world, unexpected disasters, potential high-tech menace, etc. For example, the artists tend to manifest in their works the conflict of the Utopia complex in 1980’s and the consumerism fashion into some sort of psycho-hurt or lost. Recent years has spawned large number of works, which are totally based on irrational mentality rather than the rational philosophy, and reflect the evolution of mental structure and unrelievable lost feeling.  

From the psychological aspect, our ego is built up on the uncertainly-extended unawareness. Neither can we make sure of the scope and the final nature of our psychological being, nor can we decide our self existence and our destiny. The vast territory of human mentality is far beyond the scope of our awareness. Awareness is like the finite, isolated island, compared to the broad, deep oceans of mentality, which is far beyond our imagination in its categories and degrees, and out of our awareness control. We are often influenced, or dominated by desires, habits, impulsions, biases and all kinds of emotions, which confine or constrict our moral freedom. Actually, we are always threatened by all kinds of mental factors, we cannot control our inner life, as it never takes order from our wills and intentions. This incapable anxiety becomes the root of doomsday complex. This anxiety is a release for self-existence, which finally goes back to the conflict of objects in the miserable lost world and the environment. At the same time, the sensitive artists are standing on the perilous peak, confronting the abyss of future with the vault of heaven overhead, and with the whole human being under feet, plus the constant flow of history originated from primitive mist. They are bound to be the loner, in whatever era. Every step they make toward that self awareness means that they are getting farther away from the fate of that general and common unawareness. Every step forward means separating oneself from the unconscious crowd in which he lives.

The sensitivity in Li Zi’s nature has made her specially concern with topics like sex and gender. Her recent works have driven the viewers into another situation. Compared with her precious series ---- Love is Colder than Death, The Waxing and Waning of the Moon, her recent works Lost present a chaotic, obscure but poetic world. In that vast ambiguity, that endless mazy forest, or that dramatic narrow space, penetrates the unstable lost feeling, which pervades with the flow of the infinite extension of colors on the canvas and finally gets into your heart. While you stand in front of Li Zi’s paintings, you will gain a feeling that you are standing in front of nihility, absolute nihility, from which everything can grow.

Li Zi’s new works discard those sexless and bony figure symbols, and replaced them with faint shadows or the gypsum statues scattering on the grass or floor. The disorder and depression forecast a kind of uneasy feeling. Time is frozen and become immortal in gypsum statues, but in Li Zi’s paintings, those beautiful statues are destructive tools, expressing desperation, creating sharp contrast with other colors and enriching the content of the paintings. She transfers her early pursuit of ego to the discomfort and anxiety of an individual to the outside world. For example, she has selected the twisted body from the statue The Rape of the Sabine Women as a mysterious and unspeakable mist, prevailing over the upper sky of the building, which symbolizes centralization, like a precast to tell the instability and uncertainty of future. While in another painting, a handsome head portrait, like a floating ghost, suspends above the ground. Its eyes are looking at the spinning crystal lights, as if it’s recalling the past glory, and imagining the parting prosperity. The dark mass of walls on the two sides forms gloomy pressure, extruding toward the center of the canvas, having our visual center oppressed, therefore creating a cold, depressive, but beautiful feeling.

The reassociation of space and objects make Li Zi’s works more dramatic, more paradoxical. The trace of The Black Dahlia could also be found on the other two paintings. In the clammy toilet, a closed room, hangs a female portrait, which stands in the vision center as cold as Death, facing the viewers. “The captured prisoner” seems to be thinner. Although his eyes are closed, he seems to be contemplating at the woman in the portrait, while the woman in the portrait, with her eyelids lowered though, seems to concern very much about the struggling prisoner. Their sights meet in deep thought, join together in the deathly stillness, and collide in the gloom. The inner loneliness, agony, struggle and uneasiness are all combined together to form a kind of dangerous power, passing away with heavy mourn. What is worth mentioning is the mirror in the clammy toilet, which should have been empty with nothing, reflects the portraits of Death. Besides, the ambiguous, dim atmosphere on the canvas enhances the unusual feeling of horror, strange and chilly.

In western culture, God represents the most powerful and most effective psychological power, but he never listen to our will or intention. But Nietzsche once said “God is dead”. And thereafter our ego expansion and self-pride decides that the “self” becomes the king of universe. For more than one hundred years, various “doctrines” keep changing in “self”. At the same time, self is deposited in a floating ghost space, where time and space are wrongly set and rearranged. From the altering doctrines originate the sense and aesthetics of the doomsday complex, which deeply affects Li Zi’s creation. Li Zi materializes her psychological state, ---- the flickering shadow in the forest, like a soul lingering about in a disordered world, contemplates at the marsh in front, lost, and couldn’t find a way out. The branches are piled up around, blocks her way forward, as well as the viewers’ sight.   

Li Zi’s recent works are all in very large size, as may represent her maturity and confidence. In her previous works, the canvas is often left with large blocks of white colour, while nowadays she uses lots of black colour on the paintings. She could more skillfully control the frame. Painting has become a pains-taking and effort-consuming enjoyment, a fruitful and exciting process, though she has to climb up and down the painting easel. As to the viewers, their emotion will unconsciously flow with the trace of brush into the marsh, and become inarticulately distressed and bitterly depressed. This is Li Zi.  


At Nanhu Lake
June, 2012