Li Fan's works on paper are featured by "Forms From Formlessness" on view in Shanghai


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Exhibition View of Li Fan's Works at SGA

Li Fan has always been following his own path, and his works and thoughts have always been in a field that is parallel to the society but not related to the art environment. In the present day, along with the popularity of various smart terminals, images seem to replace classic art in traditional art museums. However, Li Fan still chooses the traditional woodcut and painting on paper for his creation. Continuing this concept, Li Fan completed large-scale works on paper and nearly 300 woodcut works from 2015 to 2024. Some of them are presented on Forms From Formlessness –– a group exhibition that brings together eight Chinese contemporary artists: Li Fan, Zhang Ping, Bai Hongwei, Gu Zhenhua, Ji Wenyu, Zhu Weibing, Zhao Peisheng, Zhang Haijun. 

Forms From Formlessness originates from the Buddhist verse. It refers to a sociological imagination about the impermanence and illusory nature of all things in the cognitive universe. Compared to the infinite universe, our understanding of the objective world may be insignificant. But it is only between the external form presented by the phenomenon and the internal essence emphasized in the truth that the existence of the self is constructed. Contemporary artists have created their own passionate aesthetic images in shaping and interpreting "self".

我想,所以我是 I think, therefore I am  木板Engraved Wooden Panel 45.7×31.5cm each 2017.png

Li Fan, I think, therefore I am

Engraved Wooden Panel 45.7×31.5cm/each, 2017

Most of the reference images in this work were sourced from mobile phones. The artist removes the personal references from these images and distils them into a humanity that transcends race, class, and geography. The general state of tension, entanglement, and bewilderment of the people surviving in this era is shown through every knife mark and diluting the loose language of water and colour in the paintings. The knife marks and the sense of movement created by the body-driven brushes on the rice paper have become an important language in his works.

Li Fan, Swords are in their mouth, 2017; Acrylic and Ink on Hemp Paper, 200 x 109 cm.jpg

Li Fan, Swords are in their mouth

Acrylic and Ink on Hemp Paper, 200 x 109 cm, 2017

Li Fan's works on paper are often done in one go, without ever dragging. He has spent a long time inquiring again and again into the mindset, the way of looking at the world and the relationship between painting technique and medium. This is the reason why he has remained unhurried for so long. Each stage must be built up patiently and lived carefully to stock up for the next stage. For Li Fan, he will only paint when the image material is sufficient to arouse his sensitivity. Every time he completes a work, he can find a counterpart in the classics.

涌动 The Swell Season 丙烯,中国墨,麻纸 Acrylic and Ink on Hemp Paper 109 x 200 cm, 2017.jpg

Li Fan, The Swell Season

Acrylic and Ink on Hemp Paper, 109 x 200 cm, 2017

The Swell Season is inspired by the Lethe, the river of forgetfulness in ancient Greek mythology. The river, one of the five rivers of the Underworld, flows around the cave of Hypnos, the god of sleep, and passes through the Underworld. All souls who drink from the waters of the River of Forgetfulness will forget their earthly lives and love-hate relationship in a past life. Whether it's tragic or comedic, the moment you close your eyes, everything is a bustle that has come to an end.

"My works have quietly changed by listening to and dialoguing with the environment, people and things, so that I can cope with the diversity and complexity of the world with equanimity," said Li Fan, "My works transcend the seemingly realistic people and things through subjective feelings, and lead them to the commonality that everyone has."

About the Artist

Li Fan was born in Beijing in March 1966. From 1988 to 1992, he studied at the Printmaking Department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, where he has been teaching ever since. His works have been collected by the Exhibition Hall of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, the Art Museum of Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, the Art Museum of Beijing International Art Garden, the Yanhuang Art Museum, the Shenzhen Art Museum, the Jiangsu Art Museum, the Sichuan Art Museum, the Qingdao Art Museum, the Guangzhou Art Museum, the Ludwig Museum of Germany, the Musée d'Art Moderne de Chamarier, the Museum of Modern Art of Saint-Marieus, the Arario Art Museum in South Korea, the University of Sydney in Australia, and the Art Museum of Sichuan Fine Arts Institute.

About the Exhibition


Dates: 26th February 2024 – 20th March 2024

Venue: SGA Three on the Bund, 3F, No.3 Zhong Shan Dong Yi Road, Shanghai 

Artists: Li Fan, Zhang Ping, Bai Hongwei, Gu Zhenhua, Ji Wenyu, Zhu Weibing, Zhao Peisheng, Zhang Haijun

Curators: Wang Yu, Li Mu

Courtesy of SGA.