“In pursuit of a new visual language and inspiration, I have travelled to Tibet many times, passing by the sources of the Yellow River and the Yangtze River, Qaidam, Ali, Mount Everest, Naqu, Maqu, Luqu and Xiahe…I had the good fortune to encounter Tibet and the local people closely. The pure and profound, vigorous and boundless Tibetan landscape and the simple and honest, fervent and valiant Tibetans touched me so deeply – like the mysterious never-never land in my dreams. I try to move closer, but it is always far away and full of change, loss and eternity… it has become my immortal spiritual home.”
Li Xiaoke on his Snowy Tibet Impression series
In 1988, Li Xiaoke accompanied the photographer Zheng Yunfeng to travel to the origin of the Yellow River and witnessed the enchanting Tibetan landscape for the first time. Deeply moved by the vast and majestic scenery, he has since then travelled to Tibet, Qinghai, the sources of the Yellow River and the Yangtze River for over thirty times, sketching and photographing what he sees along the way. The snow-capped mountains and glaciers disappearing into the horizons have profoundly inspired him: ‘the Tibetan culture produced in an environment as hostile as this would have been impossible if not for the spirits, the spiritual backbone. Otherwise, life would be drowned by the environment alone.’ For the contemporary viewer seeking solace, the faraway land that is Tibet can perhaps offer a spiritual home.
Born into an artistic family, Li Xiaoke became interested in Chinese painting from a young age growing up in Beijing, where he was educated in the Beijing Art Academy and the Central Academy of Fine Arts. Building on the tradition, his art explores the openness of expression and ways to connect with the visual language of the traditional ink and brush medium. In Faraway Land, this is manifested by how the immensity of the snow-capped mountains, glaciers and the sky is juxtaposed with the smallness of the stupa and the prayer flags flying in the wind. The varying degree of lightness of the monochromatic ink is in turn punctuated by the bright colours of the flags, endowing the composition with a unique sense of rhythm. Here, the Tibetan highlands are depicted with lyrical brushstrokes in an attempt to meld the figurative with the abstract. The resulting image is one with strong visual impact – and also, one that roots deeply in the emotional vigour of the artist, squarely grounded in his personal experience.