Born in Hefei in the Anhui Province in 1965, Sheng Qi is probably most well known for his self-mutilating act following the Tian’anmen Square incident in 1989. Sheng studied at the Central Academy of Art and Design in Beijing before relocating first to Rome and then to London where he took his MFA at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. Sheng was so deeply affected by the events of 1989 that he felt that he must leave the country. Before his departure he cut off the little finger from his left hand, burying it in a flowerpot. He felt that although his physical self was no longer based in Beijing, that a part of him, his soul, was still deeply rooted in China. "The process of severing a part of my hand will stay with me through my whole life," he said. His series of paintings entitled My Left Hand shows newspaper photos and old family photos of himself, his mother and of Mao reduced in size and placed in front of his mutilated hand. In this form of presentation, the images become vulnerable and subjected to the pain projected by the hand.
As critic Nate Lippens stated "“It's such a disturbing image, with its suggestion of Cultural Revolution-era torture. But once you learn the maiming was self-inflicted a sense of disgust and sadness overwhelms. What does it mean to love a place so much you want to physically leave a part of yourself there? What does it mean to have to leave a place you love that much? What is national pride? What does it mean to make art of disfigurement? The work is open-ended and raw in a way that haunted me for days after I saw it".”