Hong Kong, HKCEC Grand Hall
30 November 2015
LEE CHUN-YI (LI JUNYI, B. 1965)
Scroll, mounted and framed
Ink on paper
102 x 153 cm. (40 1/8 x 60 1/4 in.)
Executed in 2015
The experience of Lee Chun-yi exemplifies the story of the Chinese diaspora of the 20th century. Born in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, Lee’s family moved to Hong Kong when he was five years old. He pursued his graduate studies in the United States before returning to Taiwan to teach and embark on an artistic career. Lee’s formative years, spent in Hong Kong, saw him study art under Liu Kuo-sung at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. His painting method, much inspired by Liu, departs from an artist’s conventional relationship with the paint brush. Rather, a passion for Chinese seals and ink rubbing underpins a revolutionary technique, in which he carves sticks of soft woods to become small seals so that stamping, rather than brushwork, form the composition of his paintings. Nuances within the work are expressed through repetitive stamping at various levels of strength, revealing photographic images of landscape, flower, pine tree or even Mao Zedong’s portrait.
Lee Chun-yi’s works convey his cultural identity as a cosmopolitan Taiwanese artist. Although principally ethnically Chinese, Taiwan’s local culture is heavily influenced by Mainland China, Japan and the West. Lee’s works often resonate with theories of post-colonialism and demand expressions of a unique identity that appropriate the struggles of a society to find its own image. The title of the current work comes from an ancient poem “The Quatrain of Seven Steps” in which the poet Cao Zhi laments the uneasy relationship with his jealous brother.
Boiling beans to make soup,
filtering them to extract juice.
The beanstalks were burnt under the cauldron,
and the beans in the cauldron wailed:
"We were originally grown from the same root;
Why should we hound each other to death with such impatience?"
Taking the poem as a metaphor, Lee depicts two pine trees originating from the same root with branches pointing to different directions to portray the current relationship between Taiwan and Mainland China, thus expressing a longing for harmony between people across the strait.
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