Lost in Self-conceived Garden- On Li Zi’s Paintings

Liao Wen

It’s natural for you to relate Li Zi’s paintings to the scenes of a ghost movie. I am not much for horror movies, possibly because I love words more. I always think words are better for describing the subconscious feeling to the supernatural life forms, as words are much more imaginative than visual scenes. Many years ago, I once watched a ghost movie, which name I couldn’t remember. But I still remembered a long length shot crawling like a snake through somewhere, or flourishing, or deserted, or luxurious, or isolated. You cannot help but feeling lost at the falling of no flowers, gloomy at the returning of no swallows. The audience often pent up their breath to wait for something to happen, but nothing happens. This is the most artistic visual shot in my memory.

Li Zi’s painting has almost no color, except for the black and white. The canvas is full of black ‘trees’, evenly painted, with the edges of their trunks, branches and shadows blended into each other. White, however, is unevenly and liberally used to cover the trees, and to create the effect of distance, intricacy and layer-upon-layer. The grey is an obscure area, made by repeatedly covering, scratching and washing. Li Zi amazingly uses western painting materials to create a misty effect we see from Chinese ink paintings. This is why some people often take her work as ink painting, which is of course a misunderstanding. Chinese ink is ink, which has only black color. By controlling the ratio of ink and water, the permeation of Chinese art paper, proper limits for white, black, white and grey are created on Chinese ink painting. There is actually no white color among the so-called five colors. What is worth mentioning is that ink painting expresses the subtle inner feelings by the coordination of heart and hand. However, Li Zi’s pictures are hazy and fuzzy, but always with geometry patterns or lines, deserted buildings, or broken sculptures inset on them, in addition to the sudden intruding leopard sometimes. All these elements trigger a kind of time-travel feeling, mysterious and weird. This surrealism skill is quite like what is used in western ghost movies, in which the dislocation of an object in another space-time may create absurd scene. Li Zi depicts the same kind of scenes repeatedly, which means there is a kind of isomorphism between these scene and her heart.

Li Zi is a beautiful girl, who can relate to people around her in reality in a very pleasant way. There is a big conflict, in the eyes of people, between Li Zi’s charming appearance and her queer heart, between her flexibility in real life and the illusion on her paintings. This is a sweetly incomprehensible contrast. The city youth at Li Zi’s age are mostly the single child in their families.  They experience the huge changes taking place in China. They live not to worry about their bread and butter or their education. With excessive care from their parents, less playmates, the rapid development of internet, they don’t have to relate to the reality to much. Like flowers in greenhouse, they grow up with their life well-planned, happily but find their souls no roots.  

Actually, the whole world is changing. Modern telecom and transportation are highly developed. The time-space boundary is getting more and more indistinct, and the time differences are getting more and more intricate. In recent years, the word “Time-travel” fascinates lots of young people, while trans-boundary, weird, violent aesthetics also become fashionable spirit consumption and comfort. The most interesting point of Li Zi’s works lies in its slightly cruel beauty, which may excite your nerve and save you from the boredom of excessive materialism, and make you lost in your self-conceived garden and have your heart and soul rested for a little while.

At Xiaopu, Songzhuang
Sep. 1, 2013