Chen Li

1988 · China

Artist biography

CHEN LI (Beijing, 1988)

Chen Li graduated at the Fine Arts Academy of Rome in 2012.

She now lives and works in Turin. Chen Li is considered to be an emerging artist, who originates from China, like other well-known artists such as Richard Zu Ming Ho, Liqing Tan, Xu Zhen, Xiaobai Su, and Wei Dong.

Chen Li's Gallery representation

Chen Li's work is on display at Chiono Reisova Art Gallery (CRAG) in Turin, Italy.

Historical Context of China

A leader in technology and technical innovation in both the arts and sciences, China and its artisans have pioneered many incredible innovations. For instance, true porcelain, with kaolin as the key ingredient, emerged in China in the early 1300s. It would not be developed in Europe with the same technical quality and physical properties until 1722, when the Meissen factory in Germany also uncovered the secrets of the recipe.

For centuries, China has been one of the most sophisticated and artistic cultures. Unique in its political and cultural systems, and rather hermetic in nature, it has always been somewhat of an enigma to the west.

In the Maoist era, which would last for decades from the mid-century period, art and culture served the revolutionary communism of Chairman Mao, brimming with the heroic figures of social realism and various propagandist ideals.

In the modern period, China has remained essentially behind its own closed doors. An Imperial power with centuries old traditions until the beginning of the 20th century, China was subsequently wracked by civil war as Chiang Kai Shek battled the forces of Mao Zedong for the control of this immense country, its people and resources.

Modern art production, when not focused on celebrating the ideals of the State, instead reworked many of the classical ideals of Calligraphic ink works made with the brush.

Important Chinese artists whose works can be said to be truly modernist in the context of western and global artistic movements include Sanyu and Zao Wou-Ki.

Further Biographical Context for Chen Li

Chen Li was born in 1988 and grew up during the 1990s and was influenced by the artistic atmosphere of the time. A collective of artists working in the United Kingdom, who came to be known as the YBAs, or Young British Artists, defined the artistic culture of the 1990s. Affiliated loosely by their age and nationality, they were a varied collective of practitioners. A number of the YBAs attended the Royal College of Art and Goldsmiths in London, and were favoured by the ‘super collector’ of the time, Charles Saatchi. The most renowned member of the group is Damien Hirst, and other members included Chris Ofili, Tracey Emin, Marc Quinn, Gavin Turk, Sarah Lucas and Sam Taylor-Johnson (née Sam Taylor-Wood). The YBAs became known for their use of shock tactics and sensationalism, alongside their use of throwaway materials, wild lifestyles and an attitude that was defiant yet commercial. Due to the large amount of media coverage that they received, they dominated British art during the 1990s, and their work was epitomised in the group show ‘Sensation’.

The art world was influenced by many trends throughout the decade, and was characterised by the derisive sculpture of Maurizio Cattelan, and sensitive, conceptual advancements as shown in the work of artists such as Felix Gonzalez-Torres.

Relational Aesthetics, a term coined by curator Nicholas Bourriaud to describe the act of making art based on human relations and their social context, became a key idea in the 1990s. Works by artists such as Douglas Gordon, Gillian Wearing, Philippe Parenno and Liam Gillick were described as significant artists who worked to this idea.

In Japan, a trend began to emerge in response to the boom in advertising and consumerism that took place during the 1980s. The comic book culture of manga arose as an art form, and was allied to trends in advertising and graphic design. One of the prominent contemporary Japanese artists was Takashi Murakami, who coined the term ‘Superflat’, a theory inspired by the visual characteristics of manga and the nature of post-war Japanese culture. Having been inspired by his experiences in New York City in the mid-1990s, Murakami formed an influential group of artists called Kaikai Kiki, which became internationally recognised in a number of countries.

Conceptual photography began to gain popularity, and was particularly inspired by German ideas and artists. German artists like Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth, and Wolfgang Tillmans gained international recognition, and in turn artists such as the Canadian Jeff Wall created works with a cinematic quality that was inspired by the German artists’ work. In terms of painting, Albert Oehlen and Martin Kippenberger secured influential status in the artistic community.

Chen Li

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