We are honored to present Incorrect Shape, a project by artist Li Tianqi on January 9th at Time Arts, New York.
In 2014, Li suspended a row of bonsai plants on the Chaobai river in Beijing to stage a juxtaposition between the artificially cultivated with nature and the wild. In his 2019 work American Tree, the artist practiced the process of cultivation himself by using tools and metal wires to “tame” a tree he purchased in the USA. In this charged gesture, the symbol of freedom, namely America, confronts its contortion by an aesthetic ideal rooted in the art form of another culture.
The preoccupation with cultivation is rooted in Li’s education in a traditional art academy in China. Questioning the purpose of repetitive technique training in figure drawing lessons, the artist projected an image of a sculptural figure on paper and traced its outlines to produce a “sketch”. Yet this drawing was still deemed “inaccurate” by the teacher. The irony reveals arbitrary standards produced by dogged insistence on accuracy. In this exhibition, Li uses a transparent tube that fixes the two images--a photograph of the plaster figure and its sketch--in a mirror image with one another, signaling the perpetual loop of pursuing the absolute.
In recent works, Li returns to painting and continues his queries of incorrectness. He overlaps the exact silhouettes of objects with the contours that he traced by hand. The difference between the two shapes designate areas of incorrectness. Rather than disavowing these shapes, the artist incorporates them as forms and structures for his paintings, establishing a formal system to create abstract paintings vivid with motion.
What are the forces regulating the hierarchies of correct and superior standards? When is incorrectness productive? These are the ongoing questions that continue to occupy Li’s practice.