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People's Daily Online>>China Society

Finding the magic in light

By Judith Huang (Xinhua)

10:07, April 15, 2012

V, by Li Hui (below), who says his use of mirrors is a reflection of a Zen poem. (Photo/China Daily)

Beijing laser wizard Li Hui shines in Singapore. Judith Huang takes a close look.

Two disciples of Confucius, Chiu and Yu, approached him with the same question: "When one hears a maxim, should one immediately put it into practice?" "Yes!" said Confucius to Chiu, and "No!" replied the Master to Yu. When asked why he gave such different responses to the same question, Confucius replied, "Chiu is backward, so I urged him on. Yu is fanatical, so I held him back."

Beijing-based laser artist and rising star Li Hui parries questions in the same spirit.

"What would you say your work is about?" I ask Li, referring to V, a spectacular installation piece and the highlight of a recent show in Singapore.

"What was your response to it?" he asks.

In person, the 35-year-old Li is an immensely likable, completely unpretentious fellow. His round face breaks easily into a smile, and he is a man of few words, preferring to let me rattle on about the work.

"It is definitely a spiritual work," I say. "The feeling I get upon viewing it in the old chapel - you know, the Singapore Art Museum used to be a Catholic school, and the curator cleverly set up V in the chapel - was one of intense otherworldliness."

"That is definitely the most common interpretation of the work," says Li, clearly pleased. "I do not like to talk about my work, really," he says. "I think art should be beyond words, beyond explanation, because language has a tendency to breed misunderstanding."

Li likes watching other people interact with his work to see if the work is a success.

I decided to let him know how I had played with the installation.

In the pitch-black space of the chapel, a panel of red lasers bouncing off an altar-like mirror in the purest shape of reflection - a giant V. Spurts of smoke disperse from beneath the mirror, dispersing light like ghosts. Tiny dots of red light hit the floor, and danced across my body and its reflection, when I approached the mirror.

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