To Live [It Up], Li Jin, featured
To Live [It Up]

5 Nov - 12 Dec 2020 Li Jin

To Live [It Up]

Curated by John McDonald
Featured artist Li Jin

Vermilion Art is pleased to announce its first solo exhibition with acclaimed Chinese artist, Li Jin (b.1958). To Live [It Up] has been curated by leading art critic, John McDonald, a long-term admirer of his work.

From 2001-2013 Li Jin’s brush-and-ink paintings were exhibited in Sydney, with great success, by the late Ray Hughes. Over the past decade, Lin Jin has become a global favourite, exhibiting extensively in museums and private galleries in China, Europe and the United States, where his work has been acquired by institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

Chinese ink painting may conjure up thoughts of serene, landscapes, flowers and birds, but Li Jin takes a very different approach. Although he is steeped in tradition, and master of many techniques, his pictures are bold, whimsical and sensual – hedonistic celebrations of the pleasures of food, drink and sex – seen through a frame of self-deprecating humour.

To Live [It Up] features 38 works, including a suite of 20 small, idiosyncratic coloured ink paintings; eight ink sketches incorporating his distinctive calligraphy; two painted fans; five semi-abstract ink pieces; two large-scale works on paper and one magnificent scroll painting.

According to John McDonald, To Live [It Up] has a message that relates to both China’s recent history and the COVID-19 outbreak: “Having come through the hard times, we should make the most of the good times.” Or as Li Jin himself puts it: “My appetite for life and my desire to express myself have not been diminished by the pandemic. The uncertainties have been a good test for me to keep faith in art and life.”

Li Jin: To Live [It Up]

Virtual Guided Tour

Li Jin To Live [It Up] installation view, 2021

Li Jin: To Live [It Up] installation view, 2020

Li Jin: To Live [It Up] installation view, 2020

Li Jin: To Live [It Up] installation view, 2020

Li Jin: To Live [It Up] installation view, 2020

To Live [It Up] reveals a determined philosophy of life: having come through the hard times, we should make the most of the good times.”

Li Jin: To Live [It Up]

John McDonald

Li Jin (b.1958), is one of the most acclaimed living Chinese artists. His solo exhibition To Live [It Up] acts as a reminder of the brilliance of Chinese art and the earthy humour of the Chinese.

One of the keys to Li Jin’s attitude to life is that he uses himself as a character in so many of his ink and watercolour paintings. We see him as amorous, drunk, gluttonous and bewildered; wide-eyed with stupefaction, or dressed in some absurd costume. We realise that all of these personas are contained within one human being, and that each of us harbours the same capacity for multiplicity.

The artist’s self-deprecating humour should not lead us to assume that his work is frivolous or ephemeral. As a painter, Li Jin is skilled in age-old styles known as xieyi (ink wash), and gongbi (fine line brushwork). The latter is associated with an exacting realism, the former is more subjective and distorted. His distinctive style of ink painting became a way of circumventing the demand for grand statements. As avant-gardists made inflated gestures in the name of political and creative freedom, Li Jin’s work remained intimate in nature and often small-scale.

For Li Jin, there is nothing more authentic or natural than satisfying one’s appetites – whether it be for a table laden with mouth-watering dishes, or the curvy, sexy women who stare vacantly from his pictures. If there is a moral to be gleaned from his work, it is to be true to oneself, regardless of all the pressures to conform to social, religious, political and cultural norms.

To Live [It Up] reveals a determined philosophy of life: having come through the hard times, we should make the most of the good times.

John McDonald is art critic for the Sydney Morning Herald. He is acting as guest curator for the exhibition.

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