Critic by Claudio Crescentini

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By observing the works created over time by Li Chevalier, critical memory risks losing itself in a labyrinth of stylistic references and icons that fail to account for the essence of its work, the axis of interpretation moving towards unsuspected creative horizons. By different mental approaches, Li drifts away from the stereotypes of oriental preciosity, which she transcends through her gestures, mixtures, eclecticism and pathos.


The artist has lived in Europe, more precisely in France since the second half of the 80s. The dramatic events in China at that time clearly decided her to base her creative work on a dream world, full of oriental drift, forms, landscapes that feed partly on Zen culture and painting; an aesthetics that is absorbed and then extended between two continents, which also benefits from a precise technique and great inventive skills which, in our opinion, is characteristic of the artist's training at the Saint Martins Central College of Arts and Design London.


But beside the sign, there is an equally clear intrusion of philosophy - thought - into the visual field of her art. The harmonious and restrained gesture has been strengthened over the years, especially since the first decade of this century; all this led her to collaborate later with French philosophers such as Luc Ferry and resulted in the introduction into her art practice of a constructive approach that is clearly more personal and autonomous.


An explicit example of her new way of understanding and creating is represented by works exhibited between 2010 and 2013 in her major monographic exhibitions in China, the National Art Museum of China (2010), Today Art Museum, Beijing 2010), Shanghai Art Museum (2011), National Center for the Performing Arts (NCPA) China (2013). In the measured rhythm of her creations, more and more coherent inks are superimposed on previously decidedly more "minimalist" works. While the sign, in its sincerity and gestural expressiveness, seems to be treated and filtered by a stylistic definition that is a little more European, a little less oriental. Moreover, it could not be otherwise for an artist who decided to live and work in the furrow between two parallel cultural and geographical shores, while inclining obliquely towards the European side, even if at first glance it is not so obvious.


The Western stamp adopted in its experimentation of different hues for structural purposes does not generate confusion and does not contradict the return of Chevalier to the Chinese ink culture, which is however revisited with a decidedly European capacity of composition which, in our opinion, reveals the intellectual obstinacy of the artist.


This deep love of two cultures, between her roots and her new environment, will lead Chevalier to participate in the new artistic movement " Experimental ink painting", clearly identified in the text on the artist by  François Jullien in 2014, entitled <Ink and in between>.


Thus she creates an art between east and west, with visual references and regrets that go beyond the indicated division and which leads the artist, especially in recent years, to enrich and broaden her visual search, in installations marked by a strong poetic inspiration and a decisive emotional impact. As in the case of Cantabile per Archi (2013), a work inspired by music from the Latvian composer Peteris Vasks, a forest of violins with superimposed signs, lettering, words and paper soaked in ink, life and art - in a seductive version specially created, completely revised and "tailor made " for the MACRO Testaccio in Rome.


We are facing an installation which embodies the entire aspiration of Chevalier: its form, its language, its structure and its construction of signs are combined in her program of overcoming the sterile globalizing modernity with the obvious intention to stem the drift of art, or rather of the arts, through the impact of theatrical staging, sound, and image, to recreate an intrinsic artistic and emotional experience.

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