Major Project: Li Songsong


I have been looking at artist Li Songsong due to his use of photographic historical source material. I feel this is relevant, as my work has progressed from painting photographic sources to perceiving what the photograph represents on an ontological basis.

Li Singsong is a Chinese artist who also uses photographs as the source of his paintings however it is predominantly the photographs themselves the artist chooses to paint, rather than the subject within them. Li Songsong bases his paintings on Chinese history and finds the subjects within images from Chinese media, entertainment and news.

The act of painting photographs is deeply connected to my own practice and I am very interested in the artist’s motive for painting something historical that already exists in a photographic form.

The impasto paintings are divided analytically into squares and rectangles with contrasting colours and deep expressionistic groves taken out of the surface to recreate the images in the photographs. The colours are pastel-like reminiscent of photographic print tones, magenta, cyan, sepia and red-scale. A combination of these hues in a single painting gives the impression that an image has been created as a sort of photomontage.

The viewer is faced with a certain visual dissonance, a confliction between the past life of the subject, or its original source as photograph documentation, and its new recreation as painting. Upon viewing a photograph you instantly recognise that it is just a representation and a memory of one fleeting moment but painting the photo changes that and gives new meaning to the original image. The figures depicted take on an eerie tangible quality, as though they were real, hanging motionless in front of the viewer.

Li Songsong’s work serves as a reminder to historical points in Chinese history but through painting these images, they become much more than memories. Whilst the photographs themselves are powerful indicators of important or contentious acts, painting them encourages viewers to question or re-evaluate the source and its original purpose.

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