Li Songsong’s (b. 1973, Beijing) paintings animate the fragmentary nature of images and memory, paying particular attention to the people, events, and themes of modern and contemporary Chinese history. Although his compositions draw on found imagery—with a range of sources including restaurant advertisements, historical photographs, and movie stills, among others—Li freely reinterprets, alters, or omits visual information to provoke histories and memories. The resulting works eschew narratives, presenting pieces and traces of something rather than a totalizing record of existing information.
Li has been the focus of many publications and international exhibitions, including Li Songsong at the Museo d’Arte Modema di Bologna, Italy (2015), which traveled to Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Germany (2016) and Non-Revision at the Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou, China (2018).
6 Burlington Gardens – ground floor gallery
19 September – 9 November 2013
Opening: Wednesday 18 September 2013, 6.30 – 8.30 pm
Pace London is delighted to present an exhibition of new paintings by the Chinese artist Li Songsong from 19 September to 9 November 2013, at 6 Burlington Gardens. This is the first solo-exhibition by the artist in London.
The show provides a comprehensive view of Li Songsong’s art and focuses on the essence of the artist’s technique and painting process. The works on view embody the rapid social-cultural transformation and the ever-changing reality of Chinese society.
These works portray historical figures and events that play part in the Chinese collective consciousness and while at times political in content, the emphasis is not on political issues. The political connotation in Li Songsong’s art resists any superficial interpretation awaiting the subjective viewpoint of its audience, hiding deeply beneath the dense surface of the painting. Politics has become China's everyday experience and common environment and LiSongsong's art can be seen as areflection ofthis specific reality.
Beginning with a found image sourced from the media such as newspapers, magazines, or the internet, Li Songsong reconstructs it square by square building layers of paint. This thick application of paint pushes the work to abstraction, and alters the significance of the image the artist has appropriated at this stage. This technique can be viewed as a reflection of the artist’s attitude towards realism. By working on specific units of the canvas rather than on the whole composition, the artist keeps a distance from the visible story rather focusing on specific details that make the image. The intention of these works is not to provide an easy explanation through narration, but to represent the essence, ambiguities, and changes to historical memory as time continues.
“Everyone knows the story. The important thing is the way that you tell it. The way depends on your attitude, and attitude changes with time. As society changes, attitude changes accordingly.” Li Songsong, July 2013.
Highlights of the exhibition includeIt's a Pity You Aren't Interested in Anything Else, a painting that revives one of Calvin Klein’s advertising images, one prevalent in China. The popularity of western fashion labels in China testifies to the penetration of ideologies and visions of the world that were once controversial.
A catalogue featuring two essays by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, and the art critic and essayist Demetrio Paparoni will accompany the exhibition.
Critic Stephen Knudsen of the Huffington Post recently listed Li Songsong’s solo exhibition at Pace London in his “Top Ten Contemporary Art Exhibits in 2013.” The list also includes James Turrell at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. Pace London’s exhibition reaffirmed Li Songsong as one of the most important artists in Beijing today. The work addresses both past and present by referencing collective memories of the Chinese people that have relevance in today’s political climate.
Li Songsong explains the ideas and inspirations behind his exhibition We Have Betrayed the Revolution, on view at Pace London, 6 Burlington Gardens until 9th November. Click here to watch the video.
Demetrio Paparoni, Ai Weiwei, and Li Songsong
2013. Pace London. Hardcover
51 pages: color illustrations