Float to Sukhavati

Float to Sukhavati
signed in Chinese, signed 'Li Chen', numbered '7/8' (engraved on upper right); inscribed in Chinese, dated '2002' (engraved on the lower back)
bronze sculpture
100.5 (H) x 137 x 72.5 cm. (39 5/8 x 53 7/8 x 28 1/2 in.)
Executed in 2002
edition 7/8
Asia Art Center, Taipei, Taiwan
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Asia Art Center, 1992-2002 Li Chen Sculpture, Taipei, Taiwan, 2004 (different size version illustrated, p. 95).
Asia Art Center, Li Chen : Energy of Emptiness 2007 Solo Exhibition at 52nd International Art Exhibiton-La Biennale di Venezia, exh cat., Taipei, Taiwan, 2007 (different size version illustrated, pp. 144-147).
Asia Art Center, Li Chen : In Search of Spiritual Space 2008 Solo Exhibition at National Art Museum of China, exh. cat., Taipei, Taiwan, 2008 (different size version illustrated, pp. 76-81 & 83).
Asia Art Center, Li Chen : Mind Bod Spirit , Li Chen Solo Exhibition at Singapore Art Museum, exh. cat., Taipei, Taiwan, 2009 (different size version illustrated, pp. 16, 127, 133, 134, 139 & 140-143).
Asia Art Center, Greatness of Spirit: Li Chen Premiere Sculpture Exhibition in Taiwan, exh. cat., Taipei, Taiwan, 2012 (different size version illustrated, pp. 60, 72, 85-87, 121 & 123).
Asia Art Center, Monumental Levity of Li Chen: Premiere Sculpture Exhibition Place Vendome Paris, exh. cat., Taipei, Taiwan, 2014 (different size version illustrated, pp. 63, 90-91).
Asia Art Center, Knowledge and Enlightenment -'Immortality of Fate' and 'Ordinary People' Series Debut Exhibitions, exh. cat., Taipei, Taiwan, 2016 (different size version illustrated, pp. 19).
Beijing, China, National Art Museum of China, Li Chen: In Search of Spiritual Space , April-May 2008 (different size version exhibited).
Singapore, Singapore Art Museum, Li Chen : Mind Body Spirit , September-December 2009 (different size version exhibited).
Taipei, Taiwan, Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall & Freedom Square, Greatness of Spirit: Li Chen Premiere Sculpture Exhibition in Taiwan, November- December 2011 (different size version exhibited).
Paris, France, Place Vendome, Asia Art Center, Li Chen’s Major Sculpture Solo Exhibition, September 2013 (different size version exhibited).
Shanghai, China, Aurora Museum, Through the Ages - Li Chen Solo Exhibition, October 2018 - January 2019 (different size version exhibited).

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Lot Essay

Ingeniously conceived and executed with superb craftsmanship, Li Chen’s contemporary Buddhist sculpture breaks away from the shackles of conventions, bringing both emotional impulses and rational thoughts. The use of material is in harmony with nature, and the finish is responsive to tactile sensations. In Li Chen’s work, the character seems like a sage who exists between heaven and earth and rides the wind without any attachment to the world. Ideologically, it is an amalgamation of Buddhism and Taoism teachings; the work also conveys a spiritual strength that is fundamentally true across all borders.
Float to Sukhavati, one of the iconic works from Li Chen’s In Search of Spiritual Space series. The idea of this work is to find a spiritual space that belongs to oneself in the fast-paced society. The inspiration came to Li Chen’s when he was camping deep in the mountains with his friends and family during Chinese New Year. At dawn, the artist was amazed by the majestic mountain ranges and the scudding clouds, “I immediately did a quick sketch and move the mountain below the cloud. I was going to climb up above there!” Through the work Float to Sukhavati , the artist takes the viewers directly to heaven amongst the clouds where spirituality flows through a soundless tranquility.
In Li Chen’s practice, he paints the bronze sculpture with jet black lacquer and joined silver and bronze together, while Taoist qi is infused into the material. Qi is the primary force of nature that originates from the carefree spirit of Taoism, which fuses the material and the spirit into one. The heaviness of the black lacquer juxtaposes the lightness of the qi — it creates a visual tension from this contradiction, which is reminiscent to the works of Fernando Botero, as his plump figure exudes a sense of childish whimsy and innocence. Li Chen once said, “You can always see a return to innocence and humor in my works. They have a childlike genuineness.” In Float to Sukhavati , the glossiness of the black lacquer complements the matte areas. It is evocative of how ink stone is wet and reflective in the middle when it is used to grind ink, while the peripheral part is always matte and hazy. The tangible and intangible coexist, just as the energy of qi is able to converge and diverge. They are all in accordance with the Taoist concept of ‘wholeness’.
In Float to Sukhavat i, the robe and the body of the figure merge into one, as Li Chen reduced the elaborated garments in the traditional Buddhist form, leaving simple, organic lines, which is similar to Picasso’s portray of the body, capturing the meditative state and form of the figure. Unlike the solemn, graceful Greek sculpture, Li Chen’s work possesses a timeless quality of energy, power, and harmony that it is able to create the vivid figure with freedom and happiness, transmitting the feeling of “Celestial beings are liberated as they are no longer attached to their surroundings. Those who follow the laws of nature are transformed into the eternal.”

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