Mar 03, 2015

Xu Encun

Self-examination and Transcendence: Li Feng’s Oil Painting Art

If one were to describe contemporary art as a whole, what is beginning to falter is not the art itself, but rather the spirit of the artist. In a sense, art exists as something that can be understood, while also possessing an aesthetic ideological attribute. It is a fictional activity with spiritual significance. Its fundamental quality lies in revealing the enormous contradictions and tensions between people and the world, and thus bringing the themes of reflection on people and the world to a deeper level.

Li Feng, a young oil painter, consistently embodies self-examination and transcendence in the theme of “people and the real world,” with a characteristic of austerity and philosophical reflection. In ordinary reality, he explores the meaning of existence, and thus, in his paintings, there is always the everlasting confusion, reflection, emotions, and expression, as well as the indelible confusion of self-examination and transcendence between people and the world.

In recent years, with an attitude of examination, insightful grasp, and a sensitive perspective, Li Feng has been wandering around his life and phenomena, using his own body and mind to perceive and experience, and with the mind and talent of a contemporary artist, giving cold reflection and expression to everything he feels. The symbolic images, spatial relationships, color strokes, and text structures in his work have all transcended the traditional aesthetic level structure of the text. In what appears to be tangible, visible, and determinate, what is reflected is personal feelings and intense emotions hidden behind it. Furthermore, the most obvious aspect is that in the calm austerity of the painting, it presents both expressiveness and symbolism – imbalance, dislocation, horror, subversion, and absurdity. There is no warmth or familiarity, obviously, what overflows in Li Feng’s art as a whole is a metaphysical atmosphere and aura.

In short, there are many uncertainties in Li Feng’s work in what appears to be a definite symbolic space; in what appears to be ordinary calmness, there are many absurd mysteries. The images, symbols, and their integration created by the painter are filled with forward-looking spiritual pursuits and avant-garde character, which make the integration of absurd and unimaginable symbols communicate with each other in a rational and contemplative manner, inside and out, and mutually condition each other.

As Bob, a Western philosopher, said, “Modern art is based on geometry.” In Li Feng’s work, the invisible existence of geometric forms can be seen, and he is either self-taught or naturally in tune with this. Li Feng’s work still has “human-world-symbol” as its basic, unchanging geometric structure, and based on this, he creates absurdity and strangeness, emotions and expressions, possibilities and impossibilities in the painting, thereby reflecting the unique value and aesthetic features of his work.

This is undoubtedly a re-reading and reinterpretation of the laws of art in the context of contemporary cultural context. The laws of art itself, in the painter’s creative activities, are infused with new vitality, showing the space that is yet to be discovered.

The non-conceptual and flowing transformation of philosophical thought and intellect, as well as its dual physical and spiritual attributes, enable modern art to transcend the proposition of subject-object duality and traditional representational methods, to transcend language and the limits of existence and non-existence, to roam between the spiritual and the physical, and to bridge the differences and oppositions between subject and object, self and other, presence and absence, and limited and infinite, thus leading the unspeakable abstract meaning through visible and speakable symbols to the world. In the search for the truth and essence of the world, the poem of symbols with coldness and calmness and the way of thinking are better than the logical relationships built by concepts, narratives, and literary elements.

The essence of artistic spirit can only be found in such phenomena.

Li Feng’s self-examination and transcendence in art are essentially a personal interpretation of the theme of “human,” and it is also a necessary expression of returning to humans and the real world. His work showcases a rich and diverse presentation of “human and the real world” in the construction and rational interpretation of “phenomenon,” making people yearn for another level of life.

Despite this, Li Feng’s work still retains traditional sensory elements and showcases a new feeling that changes with the times, so the significance of his work is a symbol of emotions and spirit. It gives us a visual sensation rather than an emotional stir.

Li Feng’s work has a clear imprint of the times, giving us a new visual experience that makes us ponder and understand. Its “completion” in artistic sense is not a state, but a process; it is not a final goal, but a direction. Strictly speaking, Li Feng’s art is a spiritual behavior because it cares about reality, the world, and people. Although he favors the absurd and illusions, but in terms of the essence of art, it is real itself.

Therefore, we have high expectations and hopes for Li Feng!

July 3, 2015, in Cologne, Germany

Xu Encun, Researcher at the Wu Guanzhong Art Center, Tsinghua University

Vice President of the China National Minority Art Promotion Association.

Xu Encun, “self-examination and transcendence: Li Feng’s oil painting art” in Henan Art Newspaper (2016).