Cast-offs and away

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 August, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 03 August, 2001, 12:00am

The art of Li Wei is utter rubbish. Actually, in his latest offering, the Beijing-based painter depicts scrap metal, withered branches, dead leaves, broken tiles, old pieces of paper, twisted together into bizarre human and animal-like shapes.

Behind all the chaos, however, lies a well-reasoned philosophy. By using materials that are generally considered useless, Li wants to challenge the complacent way people look at things.

'The ideas of the decision-makers in our 'advanced' society determine whether the objects are labelled as 'garbage' and whether or not they are permitted to exist,' says the 33-year-old artist. 'But that is not related to the objects' own true essence.'

Li, whose exhibition carries the erudite name Beyond The Essence Of Humanity, illustrates his thinking with the example of oil. 'A hundred years ago, oil was perceived as useless waste and discarded or ignored,' says Li. 'Nowadays, it is considered very useful by our society, even being called black gold'.

The irregular forms in his paintings are, ironically, born out of fastidious and deliberate attention to detail. 'Some people think that my paintings are not intentional and that the images appear by chance,' says Li. 'In fact, that is not true at all. Every little bit is planned out and is completely intentional.'

His painting process bears witness to this thoughtfulness. 'After I paint [each layer], I think again and again about the different parts within the painting: the form, the space, the speed, the balance, the coldness and warmth.' The result is art so realistic (left) that many who look at photos of Li's work question whether they are actually sculptures.

Born in Anhui province, Li enjoyed writing in his youth, but became a painter because he found many things inexpressible by pen. It was fortunate that he found a suitable medium, for Li has much that he wants to say. 'I have a lot of feelings,' he says. 'As I experience more and more things in life, my feelings become stronger. I express those feelings in my paintings.'

August 8-16, Art Scene China, 7/F, One Lan Kwai Fong, Central. Tel: 2501 0211. Monday to Saturday, 10.30am-7.30pm.