Li Chevalier's solo exhibition, at the Museo d'Arte Contemporanea Roma, from 28th January to 26th March 2017, will bring together 30 ink paintings and a momumental installation synchronised with light and sound.

We meet with Li Chevalier to discuss her work, her artistic processes, and her reflections on "Reason and the Heart".

Li Chevalier at her Beijing studio, image courtesy Li Chevalier


Li Chevalier, you are an artist working in spontaneous gesture that evokes oriental calligraphy; born in China, graduate of a French Grande École, and currently living between Paris and Beijing. How do you situate yourself within the contemporary art scene?

To answer this question, I would like to quote Claudio Crescentini, curator at the Contemporary Art Museum in Rome : “to attempt to place the work of Li Chavalier within contemporary art would be to risk losing oneself in a labyrinth of stylistic references and icons that fail to capture the essence of the work.”

In a discussion of "contemporary art", consider that no culture just sprung up from nothing, no-one can negate the influence of their maternal culture, even when the creative process takes a challenging or questioning approach to this very culture.

My intellectual approach is not entirely distanced from the school of painting of Chinese intellectuals, known for its deep basis in philosophical thought. However, very diverse cultural influences from the past two decades of my life is also present in my work and have brought me away, both technically and mentally, from certain oriental stylistic leanings.

My universe is not that of a learned master, contemplating the mountain and the forest, cherishing internal serenity. I’m somewhat less calm and I adhere to the sentiment of Victor Hugo “A man who doesn’t meditate is blinded, a man who meditates will live in dark thoughts … darkness is our only choice.” The creative process, or rather the creation of beauty, brings passing light to me. Through beauty, I approach my essential obsession. Artistic expression in a so-called contemporary language cannot be reduced to provocation or esthetic transgression. As Anselm Kiefer said: One cannot avoid beauty in art.

Museo d'Arte Contemporanea Roma, Italie, ou seront exposées les œuvres de Li Chevalier


The critic Gérard Xuriguera has evoked an atmosphere, a presence, in your work : “There is an approach to a muffled mobile abstraction… what prevails is an atmosphere, a presence.” Can you tell us more about this presence?

Semi-abstraction consists in finding the point between figurative work and complete abandon of the recognizable form. As such, painting a presence is a great challenge, and one cannot achieve it without creating certain unusual atmospheres that reveal a presence through absence. How else to depict solitude, evanescence, the spirit wandering through a glacial universe?

What are the risks you take in your work?

Creating is taking risks, at every stage of the creative process. But for me the main “risk” that I take, is contributing to the artistic scene with a type of artwork that is not easy to put in any category.

Deux Rives, 2016, encre, acrylique, quartz sur toile, 100cm x 100cm


Creativity works in mysterious and often paradoxical ways. How do you view the statement: “Imaginative individuals have more disordered minds”?

Art cannot stand order. You cannot go into art without adhering in some way to a cult, an kind of emotional intoxication, in stark contrast with reason and philosophical logic of which the extreme example is the philanthropism of Emmanuel Kant, a sort of neither hot nor cold attitude, well ordered and above all devoid of passion.

Passion, often disordered, tires the heart, whereas a lack of passion impoverishes the world! It seems to me that the greatness of art resides in its capacity to provoke earthquakes of which the epicenter is in the sensitive, imaginative and thus vulnerable soul of the artist. The artist is condemned to die from passion, in the hope of being resuscitated through their works!

In the end, religion, like art and love, demands that one transcend oneself, whereas the wisdom of “happiness” prescribes pills of turning in on one's own little world. 


Monographic exhibition of Li Chevalier at the Museo d'Arte Contemporanea Roma (MACRO)

De la biennale de Venise et Open au Macro - Perspectives internationales IV

Commissaire de l’exposition :  Paolo de Grandis / Claudio Crescentini 

Inauguration : 27 January 2017, 18H30
Duration of the exhibition : 28 January - 26 March 2017
MACRO Testaccio - La Pelanda  
Foyer 2, Teatro Studio Due, Piazza Orazio Giustiniani 4, 00153 Roma


Images : Courtesy of Li Chevalier

Text : Courtesy Li Chevalier / Maison Bleu Studio