Li Shan has undergone many stylistic changes throughout his unique artistic career but has never lost his ability to express internal sensibilities as well as external reluctances. The latest paintings in his Rouge series show mutant beings with butterflies as ears or as part of their faces. They seem to evoke the two contradictory strains that entail humour, laughter and self-mockery on the one hand and a cynical undercurrent of criticism on the other. Rouge is based on the principle of ambiguity. Li Shan attempts to find an evolving form that can address the problem of trying to extract the recognisable out of the unrecognisable.Read More
Most recently in a series entitled Reading (2005), he created computer images of various insects and plants. Closer viewing reveals that these insects are composed of human body parts like fingers, ears and genitalia. Through his uncannily realistic representation of interspecies insects, Li Shan questions the hypocrisy and lack of equality of human values in today's politically informed bio-scientific experiments. In terms of artistic style, he has adopted decorative methods similar to those of folk art, thus creating intimate, eccentric and oddly organic objects. Indeed, they seem to be mutant creatures from some hypothetical textbook on horticulture. The synthesised insects are constructions of digital imagery morphed into abstracted pictures. He raises the question of whether it is still possible to identify the boundaries between any particular organism and the world it inhabits. Li Shan's seemingly infinite variety of work reveals a sort of consistency upon closer inspection. All the works evoke a tension within the idea of the yet unknown. He manages to reconcile opposites in a way that leaves them un-reconciled, allowing viewers to reach their own conclusions.
Li Shan was born in Lanxi County in Heilongjiang province and graduated from the Shanghai Academy of Drama in 1968. Li Shan's work has been exhibited in many important exhibitions such as Reading Li Shan, Museum of Contemporary Art, Taipei, Taiwan (2012); Painting the Chinese Dream: Thirty Years of Chinese Contemporary Art, Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai (2010); The First Guangzhou Trienniale—Reinterpretation: A Decade of Experimental Chinese Art (1990–2000), Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou (2002); Chinese Art 30 Years after the Revolution, that traveled through America, ending at the Brooklyn Museum; Inside Out, New Chinese Art, Exhibition of Art from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, Asia Society Galleries; PS1, New York; SFMoMA/Asian Art Galleries, San Francisco etc. (1998); 22nd International Biennial of Sao Paulo, Brazil(1994); China's New Art, Post 1989 Art Centre, Hong Kong (1993) and the 45th Venice Biennale (1993) etc.
Text courtesy ShanghART.