Art

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Impasto Oil Paintings by Li Songsong Explore Historical Events as Cultural Artifacts

November 1, 2019

Laura Staugaitis

“Civil Rather than Military” (2018), oil on canvas, 82-11/16 × 102-3/8 inches © Li Songsong, courtesy Pace Gallery

Li Songsong uses dramatic textural repetition to create portraiture and landscapes in his large-scale oil paintings. The Chinese artist often centers visual narratives around historical events of the 20th century, working from found photographs and news images. In some instances, the story becomes more personal, as in “Civil Rather Than Military”, which depicts Songsong’s grandfather. In a statement about the work provided by Pace Gallery, Songsong shared:

I started this painting a month after my grandfather passed away. It’s from a photograph of him that I think was taken in the early1960s, when he was about my current age. I know what kind of person he was, but not until this year was I really willing to think deeply about him. I used a technique in which it is nearly impossible to paint delicate details, but in the end, the work still ended up with lots of expressive detail and an almost idealized quality, as if from a fairy-tale.

In both his intimate and anonymous paintings, Songsong balances content with process, employing tactile techniques that obscure the subject and emphasize the painting as an object or artifact in and of itself. Take a closer look at Songsong’s work in his solo show “One of My Ancestors”, on view through December 21, 2019 at Pace Gallery in New York City. You can also explore more of the artist’s work on the gallery’s website.

“Civil Rather than Military” detail

“Tempest” (2019), oil on canvas, 10′ 2 1/16 × 12′ 5 5/8 inches © Li Songsong, courtesy Pace Gallery

“South” (2017), oil on canvas, 10′ 9-15/16 x 8’ 6-3/8 inches © Li Songsong, courtesy Pace Gallery

Pace Gallery installation view

“My Homeland” (2004), oil on canvas, 82-2/3 x 165-1/3 inches © Li Songsong

“Taoyuan Airport” (2008) © Li Songsong

“Dog Walking (II)” (2015), oil on aluminum panel, 94-1/2 × 13′ 1-1/2 × 4-15/16 inches © Li Songsong, courtesy Pace Gallery

 

 

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