Chinese artist Li Hongbo wins the 2017 Sovereign Asian Art Prize

Beijing-based Li Hongbo explores the possibilities of materials through his paper and metal sculptures and installations.

His Sovereign Asian Art Prize entry investigates the endless cycle of life and death.

Li Hongbo, 'Desire', 2014, metal, 35x10x1 cm. Image courtesy the artist and the Sovereign Art Foundation.

Li Hongbo, ‘Desire’, 2014, metal, 35 x 10 x 1 cm. Image courtesy the artist and the Sovereign Art Foundation.

In a gala dinner on Friday 5 May 2017, Beijing-based artist Li Hongbo was awarded the 2017 Sovereign Asian Art Prize. He donated his USD30,000 prize to the Sovereign Art Foundation and  Jilin Normal University in China, where he studied. Li’s winning piece, Desire (2014), depicts running figures cut out from a metal cleaver. As he explained to ArtAsiaPacific:

The work is talking about life and death […]. The man you see here is running from the beginning of his life and is always running, until the end.

Nasim NASR, 'Forty Pages No. 4'. Image courtesy the artist and the Sovereign Art Foundation.

Nasim Nasr, ‘Forty Pages No. 4’. Image courtesy the artist and the Sovereign Art Foundation.

Li (b. 1974) studied a Bachelor in Fine Arts (1996) at Jilin Normal University in Jilin, China and two Masters at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, in both the Folk Art Department (2001) and the Experimental Art Department (2010). The influence of traditional art can be seen in his works with paper, for which he is well known. Li explains that he is fascinated by paper because “you can never predict what it will become in the end”.

Bui Cong Khanh, 'The Painful Shadow', hand-carved jackfruit wood, 70 x 65 x 2 cm. Image courtesy the artist and the Sovereign Art Foundation.

Bui Cong Khanh, ‘The Painful Shadow’, hand-carved jackfruit wood, 70 x 65 x 2 cm. Image courtesy the artist and the Sovereign Art Foundation.

His sculptures and installations are made of thousands of sheets that are then stretched and pulled out so that they resemble misshaped accordions. Sculpting out of these glued-together sheets of paper, Li creates human figures, objects, and replicas of Classical Greek and Italian busts that seem both solid and flexible. This honeycomb technique is inspired by Chinese traditional decorations.

Charwei Tsai, 'Multiple Truths', 2016, from "Universe of Possibilities" series, hand-inscribed photograph, 145 x 145 x 5 cm. Image courtesy the artist and the Sovereign Art Foundation.

Charwei Tsai, ‘Multiple Truths’, 2016, from “Universe of Possibilities” series, hand-inscribed photograph, 145 x 145 x 5 cm. Image courtesy the artist and the Sovereign Art Foundation.

Li has more recently moved into other media, such as metal and found objects. His work has been collected by a number of institutions, such as White Rabbit Collection, Central Academy of Fine Arts and Found Museum, Beijing.

Yogie Achmad Ginanjar, 'ABSORPTION 7', oil on canvas, 100 x 150 x 4 cm. Image courtesy the artist and the Sovereign Art Foundation.

Yogie Achmad Ginanjar, ‘ABSORPTION 7’, oil on canvas, 100 x 150 x 4 cm. Image courtesy the artist and the Sovereign Art Foundation.

The winner of the public prize, which was awarded to the artwork with the most public votes, was Indonesian artist Yogie Achmad Ginanjar for his painting of a punk rock biker entering a mosque.

Nguyen Thi Thanh Mai, 'Somewhere', ink on laser print. Image courtesy the artist and the Sovereign Art Foundation.

Nguyen Thi Thanh Mai, ‘Somewhere’, ink on laser print. Image courtesy the artist and the Sovereign Art Foundation.

Art Radar’s Managing Editor C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia recommended a number of artists who where then shortlisted for the Prize, including Vietnamese artist Bui Cong Khanh for The Painful Shadow, Taiwanese-born artist Charwei Tsai for Multiple Truths, Vietnamese artist Nguyen Thi Thanh Mai for Somewhere and Forty Pages No. 4 and Iranian-born artist Nasim Nasr for 2016. Several of the artists, such as Bui Cong Khanh and Nasim Nasr, explore cultural heritage through the lens of their local contexts as a major aspect of their work, and Charwei Tsai is multimedia artist who writes sutras on ephemeral objects. Nguyen Thi Thanh Mai, who was also a finalist for the Sovereign Asian Art Prize in 2015, works with communities and explores themes of identity in her work.

Claire Wilson

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Related topics: awards, mixed media, sculpture, prizes, events in Hong Kong, art prizes

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