Li HongBo: All is Illusion
Li Hongbo's sculptures are never what they appear to be at first sight. The artist loves playing with ambiguity. His work renders tangible this otherwise abstract idea that reality is always questionable, that what we see with our own eyes is always in fine an interpretation. That all, in fact, is illusion.
View the exhibition online at Danysz Gallery
That perception is prone to being deceived is an idea that runs through all of Li Hongbo’s work. "I don’t know what standards to use to measure the things before my eyes, which often baffles me. Is it my eyes, or my perception, or my knowledge system that are wrong... In fact, we stand in different 'places,' and it is difficult to distinguish right from wrong."
Li Hongbo’s paper sculptures can accommodate all sorts of shapes. They can bend. They can stretch like accordions. Their flexibility is key to challenging and engaging the viewer. "When you change the external form of an object, people will reconsider the material itself and the creative motivation behind it." To reconsider, to muse over the materials and the artist’s motives is part of the aesthetic experience proposed to the viewer. Uncertainty and ambiguity become a playground where information can be shared, where emotions can be felt.
Li Hongbo is best known for his works of paper designed after a technique inspired by so-called honeycomb lanterns, which are traditionally seen during Chinese festivities and have been used since the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220). Upon close examination, the artist realized that these lanterns have interesting properties. On top of their flexibility, they are quite robust and can easily be folded back into their initial shape. Expanding on this technique, Li developed a process that consists in stacking and gluing together thousands of sheets of paper which he then carves like a block of marble, using a circular saw to start with, then a small grinder, then sandpaper. On average the sculptures of Li Hongbo are made of about 20 000 sheets of paper, though that number can be much higher for larger pieces.