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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly form the artist by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Mao 2 is a prime, early example of Li Shan’s iconic 'Rouge' paintings. Li is a key founding member of the important Political Pop movement in contemporary Chinese art that includes Wang Guangyi and Yu Youhan. Despite the political connotations often ascribed to his work, Li’s art actually stems from a very personal vision that is both more futuristic and subversive than it first appears. Poetic and sometimes almost naïve in style, the Rouge series transgressed orthodox iconography of Mao as well as socially defined gender representation in China of the 1980s.
     
    The present lot, showing Li’s early use of a primitive figurehead daubed with the trademark rouge, is an experimental but already powerful precursor of the artist’s later, more stylized portraits. Li Shan preferred to put personal experience before national interests. And dwelling upon this experience, the works entered a dark, heavy, almost deliberately obtuse phase. Had he stuck with landscape, he might plausibly have had an easier time in the early 1990s, but the ground-breaking Rouge series, especially the 'Rouge-Mao' works, would shock the orthodoxy into outrage, although they did indeed succeed in being hailed as representative of a distinctly Chinese avant-garde aesthetic. Li Shan decided that the abstract works had been too ambitious for the time, too loaded down with weighty philosophical ideals and pictorial elements that pertained to the aesthetics of traditional Chinese culture, yet still did not take him where he wanted to go. “I felt there was no way to go forward with western art,” he recalls. “I needed to work with my own culture. … It wasn’t until I began the Rouge series that I found my true personal expression.” K. Smith, Nine Lives: The Birth of Avant-Garde Art in New China, Zurich, 1995, pp. 238-239.

116

Mao 2

1999
Acrylic on canvas.
68 x 71 cm. (26 3/4 x 28 in).
Signed, titled and dated 'Li Shan 1995' [in Chinese and English] upper right.

Estimate
£35,000 - 45,000 

Contemporary Art Day Sale

18 Oct 2008 2pm
London