The intricate landscape by Li Huayi resembles the monumental Northern Song painting in spirit, yet the method with which the artist experiments is fundamentally a mix of the old and the new. Born in Shanghai, Li studied traditional Chinese paintings as a child with Wang Jimei, the son of artist Wang Zhen. At the age of sixteen, he became acquainted with Western art through the artist Zhang Chongren, who studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels. During the 1970s, Li worked as a propaganda artist; the experience inspired him to seek a new visual language in his artistic production. Since then, he has travelled to scenic, historic and cultural sites of China, from Mount Huang to Dunhuang, the sights of which have remained a lasting inspiration.
With the literati tradition as a point of departure, Misty Mountains is a magnificent example of Li Huayi’s works from the mid-2000s. The landscape with delicate details is set against an expressive splashed-ink background, with arduously added photo-realistic details with gongbi technique to depict the pine trees and jagged rocks rising from the abyss. For the artist explains that he is “most attracted to the serenity and purity in Northern Song dynasty landscape – it is a purity of the heart that touches beyond the technique of the brush. The power of the ink manifests itself as pure expression.”