Award-Winning Woodblock Prints of Chen Li: 2018-2019

CHEN LI T H E WO O D B L O C K P R I N T S

CHEN LI T H E WO O D B L O C K P R I N T S

www.katrinelevin.com

Just like writing a love letter, content is key; what pen you use is not important. Chinese art and Western art have different views about reality. But... I ignore [these] rules to create living artistic images.

C h e n L i

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FOREWORD

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REDUCTION WOODBLOCK PRINTING FROM YUNNAN

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CATALOGUE OF PRINTS

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Katrine Levin, founder Katrine Levin Galleries CHEN LI 李貞

FOREWORD

This edition of the catalogue celebrates the acquisition and display of Chen Li’s work by The British Museum.

China’s frontier Yunnan Province is a place of spectacular landscapes and predominantly Buddhist philosophy. It is the home of Chen Li. Chen Li is a master woodblock printmaker and an extraordinary painter with a unique vision and boundless originality. His joyful and intoxicatingly harmonious works convey the life-affirming energy of Yunnan.

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The freedom of Chen Li’s thoughts is echoed in the freedom of his strokes, transporting you into the experience. His woodblock prints are a song of line and colour. Steeped in Eastern philosophy and simultaneously traditional, contemporary, and whimsical, the woodblocks are a vivid testament to his vision and originality. Chen Li lives and works in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province. Born into an artistic family in 1971, he grew up surrounded by the avant-garde artists of the post- Cultural Revolution, equally inspired by the works of Bruegel and de Kooning as of Guan Xiu and Zhao Wu-ji. After a turbulent youth and a near-fatal accident, Chen Li goes deep inside himself to find peace, harmony and balance. It is this that gives his works such power. He defines his practice as a constant transformation, as a living art that while rooted in tradition embodies evolution through constant innovation, defying any one style. “I paint what I feel in my heart... For this I have to face my past, and to have the courage to see past successes and failures.” In his woodblock prints, Chen Li uses Yunnan’s “waste-block” or “reduction” technique that is also known as the “suicide” method because it leaves no room for error.

All colours are printed from a single woodblock, each step carving over the previous one until the block is destroyed. Only a single small edition can be printed and the process can never be repeated. Chen Li’s woodblock print “Human Buddha” is part of the permanent collection at The British Museum and is currently on view. His woodblocks have won numerous national awards in China. His oil paintings and woodblock prints are in significant private collections worldwide.

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REDUCTION WOODBLOCK PRINTING FROM YUNNAN

Reduction or ‘waste-block’ printing is a translation from the Chinese term, jueban 绝版 . Yunnan is one of the best known areas for the use and development of this technique. The artist must commit to a finite amount of prints - usually 20 for Chen Li - from the very first time the very first colour is applied to the woodblock. The waste-block technique builds up the image through a process of repeated cutting and printing of the same block, printing one colour over another after each cutting. Only opaque oil-based inks are suitable for this method. 1 The rich, oil-based inks give the prints a unique texture, similar to an oil painting.

The woodblock is destroyed at the end of the process, so only a single small edition can ever be made.

The process lends a sense of urgency, commitment and entirety to each work, as there is simply no going back.

1. Farrer, Anne, ed., Chinese Printmaking Today: Woodblock Printing in China 1980-2000 (London: British Library, 2003), p. 119. Dr. Anne Farrer is an author, curator, and historian of Chinese painting, prints, and graphic art. We are deeply grateful to Dr. Farrer for presenting a talk, Texture, Design and Colour: the Reduction Print in Modern China on the occasion of the exhibition “Reflections in a Blue Lake: The Woodblock Prints of Chen Li”.

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CATALOGUE OF PRINTS

Each original reduction woodblock print is numbered and signed in pencil by the artist.

Please note: the sizes given are of the image. Larger when mounted/framed.

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Human Buddha , 2009 Reduction woodblock print 90 x 73 cm Edition of 26

Edition 15/26 is in The British Museum permanent collection. On view at the Sir Joseph Hotung Gallery.

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Reflections in a Blue Lake , 2010 Reduction woodblock print

100 x 100 cm Edition of 12

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Cool Autumn Day , 2009 Reduction woodblock print

40 x 40 cm Edition of 1

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Heat , 2009 Reduction woodblock print 55 x 80 cm Edition of 80

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Untitled , 2009 Reduction woodblock print 90 x 73 cm Edition of 20

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Human Buddha VI , 2009 Reduction woodblock print,

80 x 55 cm Edition of 18

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Human Buddha V , 2009 Reduction woodblock print 80 x 55 cm Edition of 20

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Human Buddha III , 2009 Reduction woodblock print

80 x 55 cm Edition of 12

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Human Buddha IV , 2009 Reduction woodblock print

80 x 55 cm Edition of 21

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Universe (Road to Exploration) , 2007 Reduction woodblock print 50 x 40 cm Edition of 50

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Mountain Song , 2007 Reduction woodblock print 46 x 33 cm Edition of 10

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Vase - Life of a Rose , 2005 Reduction woodblock print 73 x 59 cm Edition of 60

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Tree of Life , 2002 Reduction woodblock print

61 x 42 cm Edition of 9

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The Song of Rain and Fog I , 2002 Reduction woodblock print 14 x 22 cm Edition of 18

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The Song of Rain and Fog II , 2002 Reduction woodblock print 14 x 22 cm Edition of 18

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Chickens Singing in a Village Tree , 2002 Reduction woodblock print

40 x 40 cm Edition of 16

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A Lost Landscape , 2002 Reduction woodblock print

65 x 65 cm Edition of 16

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Wetland and Rivers, 2001 Reduction woodblock print

46 x 38 cm Edition of 18

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Song from the Universe , 2001 Reduction woodblock print 54 x 73 cm Edition of 13

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A Memory of Summer , 2001 Reduction woodblock print

58 x 60 cm Edition of 13

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Under a Moonlit Night , 2001 Reduction woodblock print 40 x 40 cm Edition of 20

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Dancer , 2001 Reduction woodblock print

65 x 50 cm Edition of 13

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A Colourful Village House II , 2001 Reduction woodblock print 22 x 18 cm Edition of 20

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A Colourful Village House , 2001 Reduction woodblock print 22 x 18 cm Edition of 20

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Old Tea Trade Road , 2000 Reduction woodblock print

71 x 59 cm Edition of 7

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Human Body Series , 1999 Reduction woodblock print 48 x 40 cm Edition of 20

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Dawa Mountain I , 1999 Reduction woodblock print 40 x 40 cm Edition of 20

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Dawa Mountain II , 1999 Reduction woodblock print 40 x 40 cm Edition of 20

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Lake Sanzhu , 1999 Reduction woodblock print 40 x 40 cm Edition of 20

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Autumn I , 1999 Hand-painted reduction woodblock print

40 x 40 cm Edition of 1

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Source of the River , 1999 Reduction woodblock print 40 x 40 cm Edition of 20

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Cold Mountain and Tranquil Moon , 1999 Reduction woodblock print

70 x 65 cm Edition of 13

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Lake of One Thousand Clouds , 1999 Reduction woodblock print

40 x 40 cm Edition of 13

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Stillness , 1999 Reduction woodblock print 40 x 40 cm Edition of 20

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Wind Playing with the Ocean Waves , 1999 Reduction woodblock print

40 x 40 cm Edition of 13

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Night and New Moon , 1998 Reduction woodblock print 40 x 40 cm Edition of 30

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Wooden Houses Street , 1991 Reduction woodblock print

63 x 55 cm Edition of 8

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EXTRAORDINARY ARTISTS FROM PLACES LESS EXPLORED

Katrine Levin Galleries is not a place, it is a destination to experience extraordinary contemporary art from places less explored. Our promise is art and beyond. In our pursuit of unique masters, we immerse ourselves into their cultures, intimate stories, and places that inspired and informed their art. Katrine commits long-term to a small selection of masters of diverse styles. Her focus is on art of enduring value that brings joy through originality, inspiration, and depth. We believe that such artists are rare. It is our privilege to share and let you discover their art and beyond, currently in Southwest China and Georgia.

www.katrinelevin.com

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Published on the occasion of the London solo exhibitions “The Woodblock Prints of Chen Li”, February 2018 and June 2019

Photographs by Jiguang Guo and Paul Tucker Photography

Printed by Ex Why Zed exwhyzed.co.uk

Graphic design: Martina Poiana

Cover image: Detail of Reflections in a Blue Lake , 2010

Reduction woodblock print 100 x 100 cm, Edition 8/12

Page 4: Song from the Universe , 2001 Reduction woodblock print 54 x 73 cm, Edition 5/13 Page 14: Dawa Mountain II , 1999 Reduction woodblock print 40 x 40 cm, Edition 6/20 (detail)

+44 (0) 7789 001378 katrine@katrinelevin.com www.katrinelevin.com KATR I NE L EV I N

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