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Childhood Fantasy
by Pearl Lam Galleries
Location: Contrasts Gallery
Artist(s): LI Tianbing
Date: 4 Sep - 5 Oct 2010

Childhood Fantasy, Li Tianbing’s first solo exhibition in China featuring his latest paintings, will be on view at Contrasts Gallery, No 181 Middle Jiangxi Road, G/F, Shanghai, China September 4-October 5, 2010.

Li Tianbing’s paintings are haunted by memory and an acute awareness of recent Chinese social history.  The artist, who was born in Guilin, China in 1974, creates poetic images where, in his words, ìreality and fiction are mixed together.î

While Li uses old photographs as the source of his works, mimicking their blurred focus, subtle tonalities and surface blemishes, his work is not Photo-Realism.  The work evokes both Li’s own childhood, as an only child, and the great changes that China is currently undergoing.  He paints fluidly, allowing the evidence of his hand to show, and transforms photographs by melding them with other images or new figures, painted in brighter monochrome colors.  Oil painting, in the artist’s words, is the ideal medium to merge ìprivacy, intimacy, currency and memory all together, in the process of gradually visualizing...personal phenomenon.î

Li Tianbing’s paintings reflect both his recovery of the past and his cross-cultural experiences, including studying painting in Paris, where he maintains a studio.  Although Li has shown his paintings extensively in New York, France and Switzerland, this is his first gallery exhibition in China.

In the past, Li has created paintings that evoke cultural duality and the isolation he felt growing up due to China’s one-child policy.  He has often depicted himself with images of fictional brothers.  In this exhibition, Li continues his exploration of memories, layering the present and the rapidly disappearing past in a single image, a childhood fantasy.

The exhibition includes a number of works that depict war games played by children.  Bataille devant la Propagande (Battle in front of the Propaganda) depicts a group of children carrying guns, standing in front of a wall filled with commercial promotions mixed with political slogans from different times.  The work reflects the artist’s concern with

media control – both the propaganda of the ‘70s and today’s commercial promotions and publicity.  The painting embodies the children’s reaction in the form of war.  Bataille Verte sur les Champs (Green Battle on the Field) illustrates a group of ghostly child soldiers, some gray, some green, implying a similar dynamic of overwhelming societal pressures and the impulse to resist them.  Autoportrait devant le Tableau d'affichage (Self-Portrait in front of Bulletin Board) illustrates the young artist (from the ‘70s) standing in front of a contemporary bulletin board.  The bulletin board’s contents have been replaced by messages referring to various present-day heated social issues.

In the exhibition, Li paints himself at different ages and in various backgrounds: Rêve-Atelier (Dream-Studio) and Autoportrait Vert dans L’atelier (Green Self-Portrait in the Studio) both feature his Paris studio where he created the two paintings.  Both works are dominated by the transparent face of the artist as a young boy, through which we can see the room beyond.

Autoportrait-Campagne (Self-Portrait-Countryside) was inspired by Li’s recent trip to Guilin, his birthplace in China.  Rêve-Théátre (Dream-Theatre) is based on a memory of an old theater and Haut-Parleurs (Loudspeakers) is a vision of a red city with megaphones everywhere.  It reflects a society that has been suffocated by noise and propaganda.  Vivre sur l'arbre (Living in a Tree) depicts a boy as a Chinese anchorite, who has chosen to live away from society, protecting himself as an outcast from the world.  Autoportrait Vert avec la forêt (Green Self-Portrait in Forest) portrays a shift in space and time.  The young artist is placed in a snow-covered landscape of a typical western forest.  

About Li Tianbing

Excelling in art as a child, Li trained in China, both in traditional technique and Western realism.  Li completed his studies at the Institute in International Relations in Beijing before proceeding to study oil painting at the École Supérieure Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris, graduating in 2002.  Along with other contemporary Chinese painters, Li’s work reflects a series of defining dichotomies existing in China today: East and West, communism and capitalism, as well as ancient culture and modern consumerism.

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