Li Shurui's acrylic painting 'Lights No.112' (left) and the artist in her Beijing studio (right)

Inside the mind of Li Shurui

Exploring the creative processes of artists featured in Vitamin P2

Who are you?

I was born in 1981 in Chongqing, China. I was born to become an artist, although my unrealistic ambition has always been incompatible with the environment I grew up in. My mother wanted me to become an employee of the State Grid Corporation of China which is the largest electric power transmission and distribution company in the world. .  When I entered art school, she thought I would paint Chinese landscapes and make a living from it, but when she heard that I was doing this thing called "contemporary art", she couldn’t understand it and was rather perturbed. In our education, there is traditional Chinese ink painting and Socialist Realism art, but not modern art nor abstract art; it jumps directly into contemporary art. When I started my “Lights” series I had no idea what OP Art was.  It was in my DNA to choose such a style of art and my concept of light is always inseparable from that of space. I strive to my best ability, for my work to be able to control the mind, soul and body, cross language barriers and the inertia of logic; and for my audience to experience and enter the realm of my artistic conception.

What’s on your mind right now?

Various colors of light, black light, three-dimensional space, Black holes, sketches of space that are not possible in 3D logic, my son’s feet, transformation of transparent gray, obsessive-compulsive disorder, pencil shavings, the patches of color that continue to jump when you close your eyes, a Chinese painting of the moon painted 200 years ago, flowing water, low-frequency noise, quantum mechanics, the mirror reflection of a shadow, Rorschach Tests. 

How do you get this stuff out?

Thinking about light, feeling, imagining light in certain kinds of space are often starting points.  Early on I was doing paintings based on pictures of explosions and photographs of LED lights. Later I started to play with the placement of these lights and really try to focus on composing with space.  I have done some air-brushing to produce two-dimensional paintings, and at times I also use a variety of materials such as mosquito nets, elevators etc. to build installations.

Li Shurui, <em>Polar Lights, No.9</em> (2010) Li Shurui, Polar Lights, No.9 (2010)

 How does it fit together?
Very often I will have a few series of paintings, sculptures and installation works in progress at the same time in my studio.  Shifting between the various materials and forms excites me.  I work for my own pleasure; I weigh the good and bad of the work myself and am controlled by the emotions the process of conceptualizing and creating a work bring out in me.  Of course, the point of completion is also a very magical moment. 

What brought you to this point?

I guess it must have been my destiny to become an artist since an unrealistic childhood ambition was enough to counterbalance all of the things that should have forced me into some other profession or role in society. This country has been going through insanely fast and extreme changes for the last 50 years, and the economic changes in the last 30 years, since my birth, have really been inconceivable.

Li Shurui, <em>Lights No.100</em> (2009)
Li Shurui, Lights No.100 (2009)

Can you control it?

A lot of the time my brain is a constantly jumping circuit board.  I might be working on something and then randomly feel driven to throw it aside in order to look for a piece from three years ago so I can give it a complete new look.  But when I seriously start working on a piece, I am usually able to turn off the hyperactive thoughts and focus on the material, colors and perfecting the workmanship.  So I'm pretty inconsistent, but tend to find ways to keep it under the reins, which ends up feeling like my mind and hands are frequently changing channels between fighting, worshipping, and being apathetic toward each other.

What’s next?

Next year I would like to work on a black light, paint the light of the moon and have an exhibition on "my own sanctuary"; an exhibition on psychology. I just had a baby last year, so I have been physically away from my studio, but that gave me more time to think quietly and in this way, I accumulated even more ideas.

Get inside the mind of more artists from Vitamin P2 here:

Inside the mind of Stephen Bush 
Inside the mind of Glenn Sorensen
Inside the mind of Serban Savu
Inside the mind of Xylor Jane
Inside the mind of Ellen Altfest
Inside the mind of Antonio Ballester Moreno
Inside the mind of Milena Dragicevic
Inside the mind of Lesley Vance

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