Artist Interview: Jingwen Li

By Katharina Wenzel-Vollenbroich
Artist Interview: Jingwen Li Artist Interview: Jingwen Li

Which living artist inspires you the most?

The greatest inspiration for me in recent years is my professor, Jiao Xiaojian. He is an artist who has been influenced by Soviet paintings and European figurative paintings, but has also come out of them. Although Professor Jiao is already 60 years old, he doesn't stick to conventions. Although he uses oil painting, he paints the soul of Chinese paintings from the Song dynasty. Professor Jiao is always looking for a meeting point between tradition and modernity, which is totally different from many artists today who are blindly pursuing contemporary art that almost forgets its roots. Professor Jiao influences me not only through his artworks, but more importantly through his artistic attitude.

If you could have any artist paint your portrait, who would it be?

Botticelli! I love the images of women in his paintings! I think that is the most beautiful thing in the world. I remember that the first time I saw Botticelli's Venus was at the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin. I saw the beauty of the female body that was sketched out with perfect lines, and at that moment I just got moved so deeply and wanted to cry. It may also be because I'm a traditional, classical and romantic person in my bones, so it is my desire to see the Botticelli-style me.

A lot of your works on Artpiq seem to be grounded in the cosmological sphere, which you depict really beautifully, tinged with melancholy, is space something that has always interested you?

Instead of saying that space attracts me, it's better to say that everything unknown and mysterious attract me. Since I was a kid, I've always liked to watch documentaries or science articles about the universe. As I grew up, I gradually realised that science can only help us to recognise a very limited part. I admire scientists and physicists, but I think another very important part which helps us to complete the cognition of the whole world is art. In the early days, the images I created were more or less related to the universe and the astral bodies. But from now onwards, I'm putting the perspective back into our daily lives, and I will also combine elements of the Chinese ancient theory of the Five Elements, a material view of materialism, with my artworks. I think it should be able to arouse more people's resonance.

The Chinese art scene, going by the amount of advertisements for exhibitions in Frieze, appears to be booming at the minute. What can you tell us about the rise of contemporary art in China over the past decade?

Chinese contemporary art in the past decade has received high attention in the world's art market. A group of outstanding young artists have emerged. At the same time, the backbone of Chinese contemporary art also has a certain amount of power of discourse in the global art world. I think it benefits from China’s growing economy and international status, and that may be one of the most important reasons why more and more Chinese artists get into the world art market. Also, many Chinese well-known artists in the world have combined Chinese traditional thoughts or cultures into their own artistic creations. This, I think, is another important aspect of why Chinese contemporary art is able to keep a foothold in the international art market. At the same time, this is also the direction which I am working on now. 

Do you think that it’s getting easier, or more difficult to make it in the art world?

I think this question depends on the artist's mentality and also on how to define success. From the perspective of the art market, in recent years, more and more art institutions and art platforms have paid attention to and supported young artists and it is not difficult to expose works to the public nowadays. But it is also because there are more and more platforms for displaying works, the competition between young artists in the art market has become fierce, in this way, some works have appeared to meet the market and the public. This may allow some young artists to taste a sweet moment, but for those who have been engaged in artistic creation for a long time, this is no doubt a disaster. For myself, I always want to make my artwork as pure as possible. I would not care about the style or whether I could sell it or not. Art creation is the only thing I can express myself most truthfully. Only the ture expression can stand the test of time, from this perspective, this artwork is successful.

You say that you get drawing inspiration from travelling around the world. What is the most inspiring place you’ve seen so far, and which place would you most like to visit next?

Actually, it's not a travel destination that inspires me, but the different experiences in foreign country. On the one hand, it allowed me to ponder over some issues that I wouldn't think about in trivial life. On the other hand, strange environments can inspire some of my potential. The beginning of this series of works was when I had exchange study in Germany from 2016 to 2017. At that time, I was living in a totally unfamiliar country, the huge cultural shocks between the East and the West and the alienation of society forced me to pay more attention to the deep of my heart. At the same time, I would also like to thank Professor Klaus Merkel whom I met during my study at the Kunstakademie Münster. The artists he recommend to me have also influenced my art creation a lot.

The next place I'd like to visit has not been decided yet. It may be Southeast Asia, Africa or North America. But for myself, the meaning of travel is not a specific destination, any strange places will bring me new inspiration.  

If you had unlimited funds, what project would you work on?

I want to do the art creation in space! Can you send me to space? Haha! It is hard to imagine how I could face the whole universe and do the portraits for it!

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Artist Interview: Jingwen Li Artist Interview: Jingwen Li

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