"Rosy tender hands, rich fine wine,
The whole city blossomed with signs of spring.
By the palace wall the willow swayed
To and fro, to and fro."
In her latest solo exhibition "Affect/Effect: Transformation in the Work of Li Wei," Beijing-based artist Li Wei continues her pictorial strategies of deconstructing and rebuilding China’s landscape scenery in her signature technique. Her latest series of works is based on a line from "Phoenix Hairpin," a well-known poem by poet Lu You (1125 – 1210) written during the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279). The poem, a proclamation of love for his ex-wife, speaks of the sorrow the two former lovers experienced after an encounter in a courtyard with her new husband. Li Wei’s red and green paintings capture this sentiment by emphasizing absence through shadows and imprint, focusing on visual landscapes by using the silhouettes of natural forms as metaphors for memory and loss.
Echoing the melancholic tone of her red wall willows, Li Wei has created a series of green bamboo paintings as homage to her historic predecessors of traditional ink paintings for whom bamboo in poetry and paintings is abundant in symbolism. However, her willows and bamboo are similar to those of traditional Chinese ink paintings in subject only, Li Wei having developed her own contemporary technique of landscape painting. Her particular process is arduous, beginning with photo documentation enlarged to the point of pixel abstraction and later returned to a recognizable image through several layers of paint on canvas or silk. On full display in Art+ Shanghai Gallery’s presentation of "Affect/Effect," the layers of process and meaning in Li Wei’s work are unfolded and revealed to viewers as they reflect on the perception of time.