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China’s Li Songsong: The Effects of Texture and Distortion in Impasto-Based Works

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“I Am What I Am” (2020), 120 x 100 centimeters. All images © Li Songsong, shared with permission

The Chinese artist Li Songsong found a way to create an exciting conversation about China and Chinese culture. He does this by painting portraits and landscapes but distorts the imagery with thick dabs of oil paint. In his textured, impasto works, he conveys narratives tied to ordinary moments or a broader shared history. The amount of distortion in every piece varies greatly, which creates a different experience for each viewer. “Culture and history are connected to China, while the language and phrases are my own,” he clarifies.


When asked about his influences, he stated, “I am often inspired by the ordinary moments I have experienced or witnessed. Once combined with my feelings and memories of these experiences, they are transformed into paintings.”


A heartfelt scene with an officer and his dog, a portrait of a hopeful pilot, and a panoramic shot depicting a crowd with hundreds of nameless faces are among Songsong’s most recent creations. The colorful pieces express the haziness and fragmented nature of recollections and tales, which focus when viewed further back with a squint.


Li is a Beijing-based artist who currently has a new series in progress, which you may follow on his website.

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“Three Decades” (2019), 210 x 420 centimeters
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“Blondi” (2019), 210 x 180 centimeters
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“Blondi” (2019), 210 x 210 centimeters
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“Tea for Two” (2020), 210 x 210 centimeters
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“No More Tears” (2020), 100 x 100 centimeters
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“You Haven’t Looked at Me that Way in Years” (2020), 170 x 280 centimeters