Selected works by Li Songsong

Li Songsong


Oil on canvas

180 x 300 cm (diptych)

In Gift, Li’s expressionistic painting utilises the devices of photography to allude to the deceptive qualities of images. Picturing Chinese fighters parading a shot down enemy airplane during the second Sino-Japanese war, Li renders the scene as a purely aesthetic experience, supplanting historical connotation with his own legacy of artistic production. Mirroring the original documentary photo, Li’s black and white palette concentrates attention on the formal techniques of the painting; the scene becomes secondary to Li’s seductive brushwork, as ’fact’ becomes disembodied into a malleable network of fluid, loose gestures. The right side of the image has been slightly enlarged to force a comparative study of the image, underscoring the subjectivity of represented ’truth’.

Li Songsong
The Decameron


Oil on canvas

170 x 210 cm

Li’s The Decameron takes its title from a novel written by Giovanni Boccaccio in the mid-14th century; structured as a frame narrative the book is a collection of 100 stories told by ten characters over a period of ten days, creating not one continuous plot, but a medley of tales surrounding set themes. In Li’s painting, Boccaccio’s literary structure is applied to dissemble and reinterpret a public source photo of the 2004 National People’s Congress. Elongating the original image then cutting it into 10 separate pieces, Li completed the painting in individually demarcated sections, each one a distortion and biased embellishment of an historical event.

Li Songsong
This Is How We Talk Politics


Oil on canvas (diptych)

210 X 210 cm 100 x 245 cm 160 X 260 cm Overall dimensions: 260 x 470 cm

Themes of intimacy, remoteness, and anxiety run throughout Li’s work. His scenes gain a haunting uncanniness not from their place in social memory, but because of their intensely concentrated surfaces. Treating his loaded source material as a void template, Li approaches painting as a purely amoral intervention, a meditative engagement with the possibilities of personal significance within an increasingly virtual world. Li’s diptych This Is How We Talk Politics blurs this distinction between public and private. Its sumptuously textured panels paradoxically convey the speed, pixellation, and distortion of mass media as fixed and tangible matter. Thick impasto fields in greyscale loom like a concrete facade, gauged and pockmarked, stippled and annotated through Li’s obsessive gestures, creating an almost spiritual contemplation of beauty from the intrinsically impersonal and generic.

Li Songsong
Cuban Sugar


Oil on aluminium panels

280 x 400cm

Li painted Cuban Sugar in 2006 at a time when China underwent a crisis in domestic sugar production, forcing it to engage in trade with Cuba to cut inflation. Li’s visualisation of this event is fractured, reflecting this ideological conflict of interest with an image that is not self-sustaining, but rather uncomfortably made up of a composite of independent sections. Executing his scene as a montage, each defined area operates as a painting within a painting, suggesting a layered and disjointed approach to historical interpretation, further complicated by Li’s intensely formal approach to his subject. Li offers no political opinion within his work, but focuses solely on the act of painting to open new relationships between individual perception and the authoritative narratives of documentation.

Other Resources
Additional information on Li Songsong
Works, images, text and biography for Li Songsong - Interview by Ai Weiwei, Feng Boyi and Li Songsong
Ai Weiwei: Could you tell me when you started to paint in this style? In 2001, I saw the exhibition you had in a bar.
Li Songsong: What I painted was the kind of iron candy boxes we played with when I was small. Its title
was "Beijing Candy." There was another one called "Digging," which depicted some soldiers digging
trenches. - Li Songsong: Works 2001 - 2004
Li Songsong, a young artist in the 70s, has been in recent years investigating the relation between public images and their transposition onto canvas. In the shift to painting these pictures, which are mainly old photos related to historical characters and facts, he hasn’t protracted the cognitive style as for some previous artists’ practice of criticizing, exposing, questioning, or satirizing and propagandizing about a certain historical period, but has used a kind of imagery enacting an objective approach.
Li Songsong – Hypnogenesis
Li Songsong (b. 1973, Beijing) is widely considered one the most important painters of his generation. Since graduating from Beijing's Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1996, Li's paintings - rendered with a lush impasto and often based on photographs of China's modern history - have been featured prominently in important group exhibitions throughout the world. Li Songsong - Hypnogenesis offers Beijing audiences a rare opportunity to see a powerful selection of Li's new, large-scale works.
Additional images.