Li Xiaoshan


Li Xiaoshan
b. 1957, Nanjing
Art critic
A daring art critic mainly preoccupied with the future of Zhongguohua (traditional Chinese painting), Li Xiaoshan’s provocative article, ‘My Opinion about Contemporary Chinese Painting’ (Dangdai zhongguohua zhi wojian, 1985) raised a roar in the art world for its nihilistic evaluation of the old generation of established painters and the statement that traditional Chinese painting had reached a dead end and belonged in museums. A follow-up article, ‘The Preconditions for the Existence of Chinese Painting’ (Zhongguohua cunzai de qianti), challenged the possibility of a conscious effort at innovation, stating that tradition could be continued but that all artificially imposed efforts to modernize it were misguided. A heated nationwide debate ensued, and numerous conferences were organized on the theme. A collection of the resulting articles were published in a volume bearing the title of his original essay. Li’s A History of Modern Chinese Painting (Zhongguo xiandai huihuashi, 1986), written with Zhang Shaoxia, though too often defined by notions of historical determinism, was remarkable for its daring tones, such as the open condemnation of the Soviet choice in art during the 1950s.
Li’s writing on art is unusually frank and overtly critical. He has a knack for picking weak points in current discourse and prodding them mercilessly, unafraid of offending peers and elders alike. In the 1990s he continued to write on Zhongguohua, often entering in open disagreement with other critics for their lack of apparent appreciation of tradition and their indifference to Zhongguohua’s most fundamental values such as ink and brushwork.
Li, Xiaoshan (1985).
‘Dangdai zhongguohua zhi wo jian’ [My Opinion on Contemporary Chinese Painting]. Jiangsu huakan 7.
Li, Xiaoshan and Zhang, Zhaoxia (1986). Zhongguo xiandai huihuashi [A History of Modern Chinese Painting]. Nanjing: Jiangsu meishu chubanshe.
Welsh, Eduardo (1999). ‘Negotiating Culture. The Discourse of Art and Position of the Artist in 1980s China’. Unpublished PhD diss. The School of Oriental and African Languages, 93–101 (translation, 197–202).
Zhang, Xuecheng (ed.) (1990). Dangdai zhongguohua zhi wo jian taolunji [My Opinion on Contemporary Chinese Painting. Collected Essays]. Nanjing: Jiangsu meishu chubanshe.
EDUARDO WELSH

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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