Li Qing, a conversation with Mario Pérez

Li Qing: a conversation with Mario Pérez


Born in 1981 in Huzhou, Zhejiang, China, graduated from the Oil Painting Department of China Academy of Art in 2007, Instructor at Oil Painting Department of China Academy

of Art, we had a conversation wth the renowned artist Li Qing who currently lives in Shanghai/Hangzhou, China

All images taken from the official site of the artist:


MARIO PÉREZ: 1-Let´s begin the conversation with the first years of your career, what made you be interested in being an artist?


LI QING: In the 1980s, when I was a child, China was just beginning to reform and open up. The young generation generally loved literature and art, and it was easy to get respect to engage in literature and art. The atmosphere in my family was the same. My parents were teachers and loved literature and art. Under this influence, I began to study art. Later, I was naturally admitted to the Academy of fine arts and embarked on the road of artist.


2-Many artists remark their artistic influences, for example, the art they used to appreciate when they were studying or the exhibitions they visited during a trip, but I would like to know how your own early works influence your latest production?


China experienced great changes when I was growing up. I felt the impact of the development of media technology and the change of urban space on people very early. In my works when I was in Academy, I painted some scenes of people in the contemporary urban environment or surrounded by images on the screens. My feeling of this kind of environment has always been reflected in my later works, Including recent works.


3-You have made works in which you experiment with the process of painting itself, for example the series in which you painted two different images and put them together while they were still wet and then separated them obtaining two blurred images, what kind of experimentation are you interested in when making an artwork?


What I’m interested in is the transformation and intervention of ready-made images, especially when I use the medium of painting. I don’t want to get caught up in the general task of representation or expression, but I want to try to create an event between images and between paintings. For example, when two pictures are printed opposite each other, it is two paintings «drawing» each other, and two images are influencing each other. At the same time, the way the viewer sees the painting also changes, and they see a “change”.


4-You have made a series of works entitled Neighbour´s windows characterized by your use of windows frames combined with images of colonial architecture from the 80´s and 90´s. The title (Neighbour´s windows) seem to indicate the existence of people who own those windows, but not necessarily their presence in those paintings, do you think those works as some kind of portraits?


Those windows are the real windows of some buildings that once existed. With the continuous renewal of Chinese cities, some buildings in the past no longer exist. I collected these windows. I made up their master, or I made up a scene with a window as a prop. The audience can not only see the scene (painting) outside the window, but also imagine the past space that the window once belonged to. I think they can also be regarded as an overlapping portraits.

Tetris Window· Exhibition Center
Wood, Metal, Plexiglass, Oil Color, Clothes, Printed Matters, Photos, Aluminium-plastic Panel 212.5 x 106 x 10 cm 2019

5-Please, tell us about the relation between your perspective, the windows and the space we find bye the other side of the frames you employ in those works.


The landscape I depict behind the pane focuses on the eye-catching side of the city. Whether it is the landscape of the past or the future, they all point to the spectacle side, which is a kind of heterotopia, while the window itself points to the disappearing side of daily life, where the differences of economy and identity collide. These collisions show the relationship among space, landscape and people in the process of urban renewal: the flow of capital and wealth, the re division of space and property rights, the abandoned and removed buildings, the newly built buildings, the preserved and re valued buildings, etc. Sometimes the images outside the window come from the Internet and advertisements, which indicate the way in which urban renewal is guided by wealth and power among different classes, and the way in which this process is reproduced in various kinds of Internet and advertisements. At the same time, it also responds to and continues to explore the close relationship between property and art, advertising and art, as elaborated by John Berger. The old window materials indicate that a space has disappeared, and its sovereignty has been deprived. The use and viewing of architecture and urban space are all using an imaginary power. The virtual scenery outside the window is a desire expression to obtain the viewing power.


6-You put images of colonial architecture in the frames of the works entitled Neighbour´s windows, which introduces idea of the past in those works, please tell us more about it.


The window allows the viewer to see a kind of temporality. This time is limited to the 100 years of the emergence and development of modern cities in China. Cities like Shanghai and Hong Kong have been dominated by different capitals and powers during the 100 years. The western capital during the colonization period is one of the important forces. A lot of colonial buildings have been preserved because of their historical and aesthetic importance, while some less important buildings have been demolished, that is, the nameless buildings where my windows were. This is not only the gaze of the vanishing to the remaining, but also an unbalanced relationship between powers.


7-There are Chinese as well as foreign elements in some works you make about architecture, how do you deal with individual and collective identity when you conceive an image’


In an era of globalization, the collective identity in some areas is worth thinking about. I am more concerned about how people in specific areas, such as the city where I live, are shaped by today’s media and landscape system in terms of their cognition of environment and space, and there is a special local mode in terms of information sharing. Even in the era of Internet, the network society of different countries may also be different channels, different knowledge and information systems, although there are similar and cross aspects.

Left:Neighbour's Window· Casino Right:Neighbour's Window· Church Left:Wood, Plexiglass, Metal, Oil Color 150 x 107 x 11 cm 2014 Right:Wood, Plexiglass, Metal, Oil Color 150 x 107 x 11 cm 2014

Left:Wood, Plexiglass, Metal, Oil Color 150 x 107 x 11 cm 2014
Right:Wood, Plexiglass, Metal, Oil Color 150 x 107 x 11 cm 2014


8-Since 2012, you have been an Instructor at the Oil Painting Department of China Academy of Art, Please, tell us something about what you want to transmit to your students and if you have a particular method to work with them.


What the academy should do most is to provide students with an inclusive and free learning environment and a space for knowledge sharing and exchange. I often give some research tasks to students to give lectures by themselves. Everyone has to give lectures, which strengthens their learning ability and the ability of integration and induction. Every young artist needs to find their own work interface. This process requires communication between colleagues and some suggestions. Sometimes we do some exhibitions in the form of projects.


9-What can you tell about being an artist who teaches how to paint with oils, a technique invented in Europe?


What we are facing is a broad tradition of painting. Apart from oil painting, which is the main medium, we are also facing other paintings of different civilizations and media, including Chinese painting art. A core problem is how to see and what changes have taken place in «watching», which directly affects the way of representing this «watching». The changes of power, knowledge, technology, media and space directly affect the watching itself. How to see, how to be seen and what to see need to be examined historically.


Seascape Oil on Aluminium Plate 50 x 65 x 3.5 cm 2017
Oil on Aluminium Plate 50 x 65 x 3.5 cm 2017

10-As a viewer one may think about how your works were made, for example if you employ assistants, what kind of instruction you give them in order to make one of your projects, the way they help you or if you prefer to make then without any help.


My assistant can’t help much in the production of works. Sometimes he will do some preliminary data collection or preparation of materials. I did the painting part, photography and later color matching. The specific operations of these things can not be described, and they cannot be handed over to others to complete.


11-What are the basic criteria to discard or include an idea when you make one of your works?


I usually write down a lot of ideas first, then put them back for a period of time to see if they are worth doing, and pay attention to the difference between them and similar ideas of other artists. In fact, there are many factors that affect me to realize or give up my ideas. What I reject is the idea style works. Those works only have concepts but lack the power to act on people’s heart. What I care about most is whether I give a special angle to the problems I care about, and whether I have my own unique sensitivity and visual temper.


12-What is your position on expressions such as «Chinese art» or «Chinese identity»?


I think that once a «Chinese art» or «Chinese identity» is proposed, it is easy to simplify the specific work of many artists. For example, when I make a painting, I often face the tradition of Western painting. When audiences in other countries are facing Chinese artists with the expectation of «Chinese art», they may feel that some works like a glimpse of customs are very powerful, but that kind of things may be simple and superficial in the real Chinese context, and the real good artists will work under a more internal logic. This kind of logic needs great respect and deep understanding for artists to appreciate, rather than just relying on the label of «Chinese art». I’m sure that the works most in line with «Chinese art» must not be first-class works.


13-Is there anything you avoid during the process of making an artwork?


I hope I won’t be disturbed in my work, which is hard to avoid completely.


14-Where is your work going to?


Compared with the practice mentioned by many people, I think artistic creation is more like a kind of odyssey. The odyssey I mentioned is based on the epic odyssey like Chinese <journey to the West> and western <Odyssey>. For the artist himself, it is a journey of a lifetime. I know that my works are always about the space and time I have experienced, But I don’t know where I’m going in the end? If I knew, I would not have to do anything at the moment.