Beam, Li Hongbo, Paper, 2014, Dimensions variable

Beam, Li Hongbo, Paper, 2014, Dimensions variable


by Lv Shengzhong

Artists Li Hongbo, Wei Ming, Wang Lei and Ye Sen have been working under the theme of “Jiang Qi” (Craftsmanship) for more than two years. Red Gate Gallery is holding the third edition of the group’s work. With the development of their artistic practice, the notion of “Jiang Qi” has been more and more discussed in the contemporary art scene. The self-claimed members of the “high art” world usually reject the identity of being a craftsman. They contend that an artwork is the product of thoughts and artists shouldn’t become slaves of skills and techniques. This fallacy is indeed a critical warning to today’s civilization. As the Chinese say: “everything has a soul”, the grassroots firmly believe in the spiritual realm of craftsmanship, the thinkers also have to keep themselves linked to these practices in order to keep the freshness of their outcomes.

Everything with the character “Qi” (literarily meaning “aura”) in Chinese has neither a fixed shape nor size and always circulates freely. Therefore, “Jiang Qi” is not restricted to any artistic style, genre or movement. It derives from the roots of traditional folk culture and had once generated a huge cultural and artistic phenomenon. Today, rapid modernization and urbanization have exploited the folk culture and made “Jiang Qi” less phenomenal. Art now proclaims self-conception and encourages cross-disciplinary innovation. Moreover, the artists all seem to be deeply involved in a race to appear verbally sophisticated instead of focusing on the art itself. In this context, these “Jiang Qi” works stand out, challenging and rebelling against the mainstream of the art scene. These artefacts speak more directly to the audience making it easier for the viewers to ‘grasp’ their entity.

Li Hongbo, Wei Ming, Wang Lei and Ye Sen have no ambition in becoming ‘avant-gardist’s. They are actually working in an extremely difficult and challenging environment. They are simply contributing as much as they can to today’s art world with a fresh wind. Their art encompass techniques, visual experiences and deep thoughts, showing their confidence in the challenge facing them.

Several years ago in northern Sha’anxi Province, I saw an old Chinese lady paper-cutting at the windows. She was so absorbed into it. I couldn’t help but ask: “what were you thinking about while you were making it?” It took her a while to come outside. She told me: “I actually didn’t think of anything.” All of a sudden, I finally understood that the process of craftsmanship ultimately requires the artist to clear his mind so that he can purely concentrate on his art.

About the exhibition

Dates: June 28th -July 30th, 2014

Venue: Red Gate Gallery

Opening: June 28th 3:00pm

Opening Hours: 8:00-17:00

Tel: 010-65251005

Add: Dongbianmen Watchtower, 9 Chongwenmen Dongdajie, Dongcheng District, Beijing

Courtesy of the artists and Red Gate Gallery, for further information please visit

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