Li gives shape to women with a touch of humour

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 December, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 December, 1993, 12:00am

Theatre of Clay Li Wei-han Artpreciation 20/F 16 Stanley St Until January 6 IT is rare in this critic's experience to find oneself chuckling with pleasure while examining an art exhibition.

Art exhibitions can no doubt arouse fierce passions - from delight to despair - but chuckles of pleasure at a ceramic sculpture show are, in my experience, rare - perhaps unique.

Li Wei-han's plump women engaged in activities such as learning ballet, dancing, clowning, swallowing swords and doing the splits, are intensely engaging and amusing.

Moreover, they say a lot about the struggles people have mastering different disciplines and fitting their unruly selves into them, often uncomfortably - like the contents of an over-flowing suitcase that won't quite close.

The artist's nearest colleague in the genre is the Colombian painter and sculptor Fernando Botero whose ballooning figures, as often as not, have a caustic edge to them, sometimes even a political comment.

Li Wei-han's figures are perhaps more universal. Her Universal Mother is a fat tubular woman, each of whose multiple hands holds a small cuddly rabbit or cat or some other animal.

Cloud Nine is a fat female who, balancing a pile of bowls on her head, clutches in blissful inebriation a large flagon, a bit like an obese version of Shek Wan's figures of the drunken Tang poet Li Po.

Liberation consists of two females sandwiching one male figure, all of them nude and standing on top of their folded clothing.

And the delightful Midnight Express depicts three uncomfortable dosing figures clutching their belongings as the train thunders through the night.

Li Wei-han looks with an altogether warmer and more loving eye on her fellow beings than Botero.

and in so doing tells us a lot about ordinary people.

This is a very special exhibition and one not to be missed.