Leeds-based artist Qijun Li, a recent graduate of the Leeds College of Art, is breathing new life into the traditional form of contemporary painting. Inspired by the immersive realm of virtual reality and the powerful dynamics of technology, Li is rendering colorful compositions and abstract depictions. He sums up his artistic practice is three words: “Kitsch, digital and materialized”.
Words: Yannis Kostarias
Li is an emerging artist whose creative production is embracing the art of abstraction through a dialogue between the physical and the digital world. The presence of the digital aesthetics is evident in his practice, which is many times infused by early computer-generated imagery. Contemplating on the qualities coming out of this thoughtful dialogue between the physical and the virtual, Li’s artistry constructs an alternative place where these two contradictory concepts can successfully coexist presenting some great art on canvas.
Additionally, his artistic vocabulary is dealing with consumerism as well as materiality. His painting forms include cheeky free-flowing movements; interestingly fluid and beautiful to watch. Likewise, the rapid and continuous change that characterises these two social phenomena is also linked to the nature of those kitsch or even elegant elements in his painting depictions that tend to flow easily on the canvas. Their versatile attributes create a rather inventive communication with the paintings, which also flirt with abstract imagery.
In his interview with ArtVerge, Li explains many more about his art as well as his daily routine. Check it out and you will get to know many more about him.
ArtVerge: Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
Qijun Li: When approaching a new piece, I try to create works which are redolent or nostalgic of being sat in front of an illuminated screen. So naturally, in the earlier stages of my practice, I created crude digital mock ups which were then unpackaged into tangible tactile renders of these files. Creating something which is uniquely unreproducible in an identical manner juxtaposing the infinitely “copy & paste” ability of the digital realm.
How would you define your work in few words (ideally in 3 words)?
Kitsch (not really in a good way to be honest haha), Digital, Materialised
Can you name any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?
I am influenced by such a vast amount of great current contemporary artists from emerging to fully established, the numerous people we are now able to stumble upon nowadays due to apps like Instagram, social media, in general, has impacted the medium in which we surf and collect art, it’s beautiful.
But back to the point, I think my strongest influences have been the likes of Trudy Benson, Austin Lee, Hetty Douglas, Micheal Staniak, Maja Djordjevic, Jon Rafman, Ed Atkins, Josh Reames… the list is endless.
When was the latest video you watched on social media and had an impact on your mood? Which one?
Erm.. realistically the last video I’d watched on social media would probably be one of those “3D cool world” videos, of “stupid” rendered characters, I find these videos quite intriguing yet revolting, they’re just so meta.
Creating a new painting is a solitary process. If this applies to you, when you concentrate on a new artwork does it affect your social life at all?
I feel that moments of solidarity are needed in the initial stages of conceiving a piece of work, it helps me to actually focus and actually start creating, but afterwards I find being around other people doesn’t really affect the process too much, obviously I do find myself procrastinating a lot more, but I enjoy it, it’s a lot more fun. .
How do you know when a painting is finished?
It’s pretty hard for me to know when a painting is done tbh, I guess it is when I feel content with it, yet I find it’s always so easy to overwork a piece.
What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space like, and how does it affect your process?
Well, I’m currently working a barista job to pay my rent, materials etc. In regards to a studio, I’m currently at a studio called serf in Leeds, a pretty sweet open plan space. I just wish I was able to spend more time at the studio then at work.
Which exhibition did you visit last?
The last memorable piece of art I visited would be a James Turrell installation at Houghton hall, the settings for a festival I went to last weekend. The last gallery I had visited would have to be “Good Luck” at COB studios in Camden, to see a two person show by Alfie Kungu and Hetty Douglas, which I thoroughly enjoyed, the chance to see their works in person was great.
What do you hope audiences will take from your work?
Good question, I wouldn’t want to impose any ideas on anyone, I want it to be a subjective experience, I don’t want people to think the same way as I do. I suppose, if anything like the concepts I am trying to portray, I’d like the experience of walking into a gallery to be redolent of browsing the internet, I’d like people to view the works much like a ‘meme’, just a mere distraction to mundane ordinary life, whatever they take from it is up to them.
What does your mum think about your art?
Aaahh, my parents both come from a scientific background, so naturally, I think they always wanted me to follow suit and seek a career in the natural sciences, but ultimately they are incredibly supportive of what I do, even if they don’t “get it”.
Are you a morning person or a night owl?
I enjoy early mornings, but I do prefer evenings, night time is just a lot more fun.
Is the glass half empty or half full?
Half empty, I’d rather be a pessimist and never be disappointed
Which are your plans for the near future?
My current two-year plan is to carry on making works, then hopefully amass a good enough portfolio to pave the way to a master next September.