“I don’t belong to the school of artists who seek strength and anchorage in political resistance.”
Born Changchun, Jilin, 1969. Lives and works in Chongqing
Li Zhanyang’s sculptures are like 3D video grabs of life in Beijing’s teeming streets. “My works are created to tell stories,” he says—rollicking stories of thieves and prostitutes, cops and drunks. He has been drawn to crowds since he was a child; his first painting, done at age thirteen, was of a food market. Moving to the big city in his late twenties, Li Zhanyang would spend hours in louche bars, seeing “whatever there was to see”, then go home and sculpt the scenes from memory. He went on to recreate gambling dens, railway stations, brothels and bus stops. Once, Chinese sculptures had to be monumental, heavy with political messages. Li Zhanyang’s work is happily trivial and frequently vulgar. In works like Traffic Accident (2001), he packs a single incident with multiple smaller stories. Often, as in The Well (2007), he incorporates events from folktales, rendering them as contemporary events, the kind of thing seen every night on China’s TV news.