Li Xin was born in Shaanxi Province in 1973. Growing up in a region well known for its stunning landscape beauty, Li’s creativity from a young age was deeply influenced by the mighty Yellow River and its reflections of the dramatic blue sky. After graduating in 1996 with a degree in ink painting from the National Academy for Arts and Crafts, Beijing, Li decided to abandon the brush to become instead a man of business for several years. His creative spirit growing restless within him, he eventually returned to his artistic passion. In 2002, Li moved to Paris, and he currently lives and works between Paris and Beijing.
After his initial years in Paris were spent creating abstract pieces, Li returned to ink. This decision, resulting from a lengthy personal artistic maturation, may also be seen as a cultural choice: a desire to create a new form of ink wash, unheard of in the Chinese tradition, which aimed to reposition an ancestral tradition in the contemporary world. This choice belongs neither to recent Chinese artistic trends, nor to a particular international context.
Li speaks of his creation as “paint rooted in water,” and this serves to initially distance his work from that of traditional scholars who were mostly concerned with the handling of brush and ink. For his part, Li uses relatively little ink in his works, leaving only a few traces that resemble water stains on his Xuan paper. At the same time, he draws on Chinese scholarly tradition by appropriating the stains to give a pleasing, natural appearance.
In his works, Li plays with the materiality of water, ink, and paper to reinvent his personal, nostalgic landscapes. He transposes this mental process with an ease freed from technique and conceptuality. Through his work Li argues that – whether it wants to progress and modernise, or whether it seeks its artistic truth – the medium of Chinese ink wash must accept a technical and a cultural renewal.