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Abstract art by the man from the yellow earth

(Shanghai Daily)

14:08, March 12, 2013

Shanghai is China's cradle of abstract art and the home of big names such as Wu Dayu (1903-1988) and Zao Wouki (b 1921).

But abstract art is less popular with the Chinese public than realistic and impressionistic art because of the demands on viewers' intellect and imagination. As a result, there's not a lot of good abstract art to be seen.

An exception are the works of Shanghai painter Li Lei on display at the Longmen Art Projects through May 5. The exhibition is titled "Mind and Comprehension."

Shortly after he was born in 1965 in Shanghai, Li's parents were exiled to labor in the countryside during the "cultural revolution" (1966-1976). They traveled to Haishi Bay on the harsh, sandy, arid border of remote Qinghai and Gansu provinces.

"My first memory of a wall was of yellow mud and my first memory of the ground I walked on was also yellow mud," Li says. "Sandstorms always blocked your view on sunny days, and wet mud used to cover your feet and block your way on rainy days.

"Strictly speaking, although I speak Shanghai dialect, I find myself a man from the yellow earth in the north," Li adds.

His years growing up in the geography of the yellow earth may partially the power and intricacy of his work, as well as his depiction of water. In some works water is painted as a pond with ripples on the surface that appear to be wrinkles on a face.

"Some of my recent works, aims to explore the symphony within visual art. Painting seemingly has little to do with music, but one can expose the internal structure and rhythm within art by discovering the musical harmony within a painting," Li says. "I hope that viewers will be able to hear the symphony in their heart."

Date: Through May 5, 10am-6:30pm
Address: Bldg 23, Sinan Mansion, 515 Fuxing Rd M.

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