Li Tianbing

Born in Guilin, China in 1974, Li Tianbing studied at the Institute of International Relations in Beijing before graduating in 2002 from the Ecole Supérieure Nationale des Beaux-Arts in Paris. As Li Tianbing moved to Paris in 1996 to study art at Ecole des Beaux Arts, he kept digging into his identity, travelling back and forth to his home country seeking to seize it better through separation. Fusing both cultures, the artist incorporates traditional Chinese motifs into Western forms of interpretation. On the one hand, the colour blue symbolising capitalism, nuances of black based on Taoist philosophy, the use of text as another layer of meaning; on the other, the practice of self-portrait, the use of oil on canvas, the importance of photography as a starting point and the integration of colour. The consequences of the single child policy, the conception of family as well as the reflection on contemporary Chinese society remain central in Li Tianbing’s work. These paintings are part of a semi-biographical series that has occupied Li for the best part of five years. They are an artist's attempt to recapture and re-imagine what he can of his own childhood and to explore the human consequences of perhaps the most controversial and far-reaching social policy China has decreed – the One Child Rule Policy. Li Tianbing explores fiction and reality haunted by selected childhood memories in a suffocating society and charged political setting. Using photographs as a medium to illustrate his reflections on the past and his multicultural experiences, Li layers the present using oil painting in a timeless duality. Reflections on loneliness are addressed in a symbolic fashion across Li’s art, reflecting his suffering instilled by the single child policy. This state of confusion engulfs the artist and he loses the frontier between his own authenticity and invention. The interpretation of his work incorporates personal identity and drama in a tale with the infiltration of multicultural factors. His composition interweaves the contrasting themes of China today: East and West, communism and capitalism, ancient culture and modern consumerism. A recurrent fixity and absence lie in the children’s look: no expression can be read. Breaking up with the autobiographic pact based on an absolute transparency with the viewer or reader, Li Tianbing seems to build an impassable sanctuary of intimacy, feelings and memories. The context in which children are evolving is almost more suggestive than the characters as if they were existing without being, present without participating. Rendered in the stark, monochrome detail of an old photograph, some splashed blue, red or green, others clutching unnaturally bright toys, books or bags, are children. Staring wide-eyed, deadpan they appear detached, waif-like. And above all – though each picture may contain several children – they seem alone. Now considered as one of the most critically acclaimed China-born artists of his generation, A selection of the exhibitions Li has participated included: Today Art Museum, Beijing; Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai; National Museum of Fine Arts, Beijing, China and Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno, Spain. The artist lives and works in both Beijing and Paris, France.