Katrine Levin Galleries is delighted to bring to the Coningsby Gallery the award-winning woodblock prints of Chen Li (b. 1971, Kunming), between 19 – 24 February 2018. Following Chen Li’s acclaimed “Paintings from the Heart”, brought by Katrine Levin Galleries to the Coningsby Gallery in June 2017, this show shines the spotlight solely on Chen Li’s extraordinary reduction woodblock prints, a genre worthy of separate attention.
The centuries old art of Chinese woodblock printing dates back to the Tang dynasty (AD 618-907). Chen Li applies his unique vision and abundant originality to a more recent and rare type of woodblock printing technique,
called “reduction” or “waste-block” printing, perfected in his native Yunnan Province in China.
Ranging from traditional Chinese landscapes, to abstractions of wind and sky and mountains, to whimsical Buddhas and fantasy landscapes, Chen Li’s woodblock prints are a song of line and colour. They are the essence of Eastern philosophy expressed by a contemporary genius.
The technique of “reduction” or “waste-block” printing requires stamping all of the colours from a single woodblock. Each step along the way destroys the
previous one until the woodblock itself is destroyed. Only a single limited edition can be printed this way and the process can never be repeated. The process uses thick oil-based colours, creating relief-prints with
a mesmerising texture.
Chen Li is a master of both Eastern and Western techniques, expressing his unique vision through the media of woodblock prints as well as oil on canvas. In both media, the freedom of Chen Li’s thoughts is echoed in the freedom of his strokes and the originality of his compositions, melding elements of ink painting,
calligraphy, and oil painting. His flying strokes render wind, clouds, sunshine – transporting the viewer into the experience.
Defying being categorised in any one style, he says “Just like writing a love letter, content is key; what pen you use is not important. Chinese art and Western art have different views about reality. But … I ignore [these] rules to create living artistic images.”
Chen Li defines his practice as a constant transformation, as a living art that
while rooted in tradition embodies the evolution of woodcut printing and painting though constant innovation.
Chen Li’s woodblock prints have won numerous national awards in China. His works have been placed in significant private collections in the United Kingdom, Italy and the United States, inspiring a loyal following.