2003 Graduated from the high school attached to Lu Xun Fine Arts Institute
2007 Graduated from Department of Murals (B. A.), Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, China
2010 Intrinity：Solo Exhibition of Li Chao, Iberia Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China
Spring Temporary Expo in Iberia, Iberia Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing,China
Exposition o Contemporary Art “Life-Miniature”, Soka Art Center, Beijing, ChinaNew Beauty – Expo of Art for Young Artists, White Space, Beijing, ChiaThe Shape of Time — The Multi-Narrative History in Contemporary Chinese Art, Iberia Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China
Crosshairs – Expo of small scale works on easel, Iberia Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, ChinaSeven Ways–Image-Making and its Discontents,Times Art Museum,Beijing, China
Brake 2, XI Art Space, Beijing, China
Art Festival 798-Da Shan Zi, Beijing, ChinaThe First Multimedia Art Festival, Beijing, China“Be Urbanized”, Museum of Central Academy of Fine Arts(CAFA), Beijing, China
Biennial Prague, Prague, Czech Republic
Self-preservation: Painting Exhibition of Cui Jie, Li Chao and Wang Yuanzheng, Magee Art Gallery, Beijing/Madrid, China/Spain
Wu: Wu Jie, Director of 5Art Tang: Tang Yao, Operations Manager of 5Art
Liu: Curator Liu Jiayi Li: Li Chao XQ: Critic Li Shuqiao
Tang: How did this series of your works come about?
Li: They were made without prior motive. I feel that if I knew what I was going to paint, I may as well not do it at all. I think I should start at the humble beginning of my painting process, why all the going over with paint on white canvas? Because at that moment I still have not figured out what I was going to paint.
The background you see is the earliest stage of the painting, smearing. I have a dislike for planning or to keep thinking about a painting, how to structure, how to present or in which way I should work….this will make the painting meaningless, I wish to find the meaning of the painting through the meaningless. I have a lot of hobbies and often engage in contemplation. I have painted still objects in the past, the type that was popular shortly after the Renaissance, presently, it seem to have lost its purpose, but sometimes I like to challenge myself, I look to giving something obsolete, something out of date a new meaning. I would never turn away from any interesting topics or frames of thought.
I hate the term “systemizing”, because being systematic does not require thinking, for example “system 1”, “system 2”, “Lotus System” and other icons such as these, I don’t like to be restricted by it, I think that artists must have a wider scope of mind.
Wu: You have studied painting from when you were very little, can you tell me how you formed the idea of wanting to paint?
Li: I started with Chinese landscape paintings, when I first painted, I thought Chinese landscape paintings were the best. I began with imitating the style of Lu Yanshao, after that, I was applying for CAFA Affiliated High School and I dropped Chinese landscape painting. There, I met a teacher who was against painting in general, he said “no one is painting any more, all the dope artists are making video art now, after a while, the same teacher said “no one is making videos any more, the dope artists are all becoming curators!” Suddenly, it hit me, I needed to become a curator, and I did, as soon as I entered university, I started organizing art events, video art events, after a while it stopped to interest me, so I returned to painting, I think I am more suited to be immersed in the canvas.
Wu: When I first looked at your catalogue, I can tell that you had a lot of topics, but the topics may not have any connection with each other, how do you see this aspect of your art?
Li: The best answer for this question may be this, when one looks at one of Joseph Beuys’s art, in it, he tries to explain art to a dead rabbit, but he is also able to make a painting, do you see any connection in this? In Damien Hirst’s work, where he leaves a shark in formaldehyde, he can also tie himself to a rope and make paintings hanging from the ceiling. I think that their mind frame is wide, I think artists need to have thoughts non-stop, the repetition in one’s art can stop when he reaches 3 or 5 paintings, if he continues after that, there is little meaning. I think that artists should have that spirit to excel one’s own self, and not simple repetition, that’s the difference between artists and craftsmen.
Tang: I would like to know what position this upcoming exhibition at 5Art means in your artistic career.
Li: It is like the painting “Reaching for That Highest Pearl”, I am still in a state of reaching.
Tang: For you, what does pearl stand for?
Li: To radiate my personal energy. I hope that my thoughts and ideas can be accepted by others, and receive others’ recognition, but not restricted in a certain set of frame.
Tang: I think that you have been building your own system of order, this system of order can be that “nothing can hold me back, I can make art at any level”, these are your systems. You find more pleasure in the fact that the audiences feel more about the image than they do about your system. However, this system does not need to be recognized, its purpose for existence is the fact that “you did it”, and that the idea came out in your work when you least expect, that’s why you are always being playful, trying to breakthrough this barrier.
Wu: I feel that Li carries with him a youthful rebellion that’s why his art too carries it, but it is not the type that clashes but more of an interesting way of rebellion. I think his art reflects a lot about his character. Along his artistic journey, he has with or without intension built a distanced rebellion.
Tang: Strictly speaking, it is rare to see this type of ridicule and cheeky-ness for someone his age, many make art with only themselves in it, Li is directly against this, which is to say that the art is not himself, but he remains an spectator, and the “self” in his art is not him, but he is involved in it.
Liu: I think he combined cleverly in his art his character and his thoughts. I also think his art contains Chinese classical painting elements. From an oil painting point of view, his art is impersonal, from classical Chinese art point of view, scattered perspective makes the self being amongst the landscape, Li Chao’s paintings are a combination between oil-painting and Chinese classical art in this respective.
Tang: I think that your smaller sized works are more full of content, more eye-catching. Many others think so too, how do you feel about that?
Li: I agree with and understand why other would say so, I am not unhappy that some people may think that my smaller works are more interesting, if De Vince make small paintings, you may find that to be interesting also, but I ask, which is more interesting, the Sistine Chappell of the medieval war machine pictures that he drew? I think smaller painting are small in size and is more manageable for the artist, it takes less time to create and the expression of ideas are more focused, it can deliver a message more directly.
Tang: XQ, what do you think of his smaller paintings?
XQ: I think that his brush works are similar to Chinese classical painting, because the hand and mind is at one, that’s how the ideas come out onto paper.
Li: Yes, that’s right, I was reading Wang Xin’s blog the other day which I quite agree with, he says, when a calligrapher practices calligraphy like it is an ultimate form of art, he will never be as good as someone who practices it like post-it stickers. I think you will find that the random writing of the famous Song Dynasty calligrapher Mi Fu much more interesting than his longer works.
Wu: The concept that the hand and mind being at one in classical Chinese painting is similar in calligraphy, your calligraphy will represent your character, your emotions, your state of mind and taste in aesthetics, and in creative process, the inert come to the surface, and the calligraphy becomes the character of the calligrapher, that’s why in his smaller art, just like he said, he was able to express himself fully on the small canvas.
Wu: I want to ask Li Chao, why do you use this granule-like brush strokes in your art?
Li: The earliest form of paint is mud, mud with minerals in it, I wanted to create that most primitive feel.