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LI CHEN (CHINA, B. 1963)
LI CHEN (CHINA, B. 1963)

Flickering Moonlight

LI CHEN (CHINA, B. 1963)
Flickering Moonlight
signed ‘Li Chen’ in Pinyin; signed in Chinese; dated ‘2009’; numbered ’3/8’ (on the back)
bronze sculpture
48 × 23 × 52 cm. (18 7/8 × 9 × 20 1/2 in.)
Executed in 2009
edition 3/8
Private Collection, Asia
Asia Art Center, Greatness of Spirit: Li Chen Premiere Sculpture Exhibition in Taiwan, Taipei, Taiwan, 2012 (different sized version cover and illustrated, pp. 102-105).
Place Vendome, Monumental Levity of Li Chen Premiere Sculpture Exhibition Place Vendome Paris, Paris, 2014 (different sized version illustrated, pp. 68, 98-99 & 113-114).
Taipei, Taiwan, Freedom Square and Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Greatness of Spirit: Li Chen Premiere Sculpture Exhibition in Taiwan, 2012 (different sized version exhibited).
Paris, Place Vendome, Li Chens Major Sculpture Solo Exhibition, 2013 (different sized version exhibited).

Lot Essay

Li Chen's sculptural works present materials and spirit as a strongly unified whole. As a student, Li learned about Western ideas, but early in life also focused on producing traditional Buddhist statuary. After studying sculpture for a number of years, Li was able to grasp the Western language for sculpture, while also reflecting a deep feeling for Eastern philosophy in his work. Flickering Moonlight is an important work from his series, Spiritual Journey Through the Great Ether. In that series, Li crafts exquisite works that emphasize a sense of space and strong contrasts, along with techniques to incorporate gold and silver leaf on their surfaces. His light, buoyant, and beautifully finished works also display a fine sense of humor that engages viewers with added meanings and implications.

Li Chen's works often collide with audience's view through seeming violation of basic rules. The exquisite finish of Flickering Moonlight can be seen in the fine, subtle changes of its textures, while Li proportions the figure of his subject like an infant, with a thick, rounded body and large head. Despite being made of bronze, the marble-like smoothness of the pure black figure and the sparkling gold and silver in the surface of the lake present strong contrasts in both materials and color. Li Chen says, "Usually when we see something in black, we assume it's very heavy. But when you meditate or close your eyes, black in fact is very light." The heaviness of black, combined with the light, floating posture of the child, produce a contrast between movement and stillness, lightness and weight. Together with the added warmth of the gold and silver, empty abstraction takes on substantial meaning. Flickering Moonlight achieves the Western ideal of life-like sculpture — that is, a pose known as contrapposto, in which opposites are balanced, with the weight of the body supported on one leg, shoulders and arms swing away from the central axis. At the same time, it satisfies the Eastern aesthetic demand for liveliness with its energy and grace.

Li Chen has carved out a sculptural language that breathes the essence of Taiji, embracing the argeness of the heavens and the earth, but remaining close to the feelings of the world. “The water flows in a thousand rivers, reflecting a thousand moons; in the thousand miles of blue where no clouds are, we see the majestic sky.” the Flickering Moonlight sculpture was born from the poem. The image of a child lightly stepping into the water, the water rippling outward with golden light, reflects the beautiful mood of something felt but not quite spoken. “In concentrating your breath, can you once again become supple as a babe?” asked Laotze. Li Chen's Flickering Moonlight, like Constantin Brancusi's Sleeping Muse (Fig.1), uses soft, simplified lines to depict a state of defenceless innocence. Between the tangible and the intangible, between the substantial and the imaginary, Li Chen's flickering moonlight spreads across the mundane world,and reaching it, arrives at simplicity.

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