Culture & Art

Apr 1, 2017

LI HONGBO - FLEXIBLE BUSTS

Malleable as a breakdance dancer is the appearance of Michelangelo's bust in the work "Tools of study", by the Chinese artist Li Hongbo, made with only paper and glue. They are paper sculptures, but with the particularity of being furniture, giving the illusion that they are modified with special effects. Find out how this new art is created.

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A technique as curious as it is artistic. Imagine a paper that gains the appearance of something hard, that does not tear and does not break. Confused?! Well, the art of Li Hongbo is inspired by the popular Chinese saying: "life is as fragile as paper."

This artist, obsessed with Chinese ornaments modelled on bonded paper, from childhood, was studying and making his own toys with paper. As an adult, he devoted himself to painting, graduated in graphic design and worked as an editor. Over the years, he collected an enormous amount and variety of paper, eventually creating an amazing technique of making sculptures, which he improved for 12 years.

«I liked to use paper to make toys and, sometimes, I even bought paper toys because the price was very affordable. That made me very happy», recalls the artist. «In 2006, I went to study at the Central Academy of Fine Arts and, during that time, I remembered the paper toys of my childhood, and made this material the basis of my work precisely because it is economic, abundant, malleable and easy to find», explains Li Hongbo.

It was in this way that this artist born in 1974, in the small Chinese province of Ji Lin and currently living in Beijing, China, began to build his toys, but this time, in giant format and that resulted in the most famous artistic creations of the moment.

Molded with electric tools, the sculptures are no more than paper (about 30,000 sheets in some cases) and glue. Nothing else. For finishing, the artist uses a tool called grinding wheel (also known as rectifier) and sandpaper. Before being manipulated and extended as an accordion, the singularity of Hongbo's sculptures is also due to they appear to be a concrete, immutable material: porcelain, ceramics and wood.

After being stretched, the pieces take on a whole new look, but come back exactly to the original shape, which is another innovative and surprising aspect of these artistic creations.

One of his most recognisable works is called "Tools of study," where Michelangelo's bust appears malleable as a breakdance dancer. In the video "Statues in motion", the impression one has is that the sculptures are modified with special effects.

The interaction of the public with the works is a fundamental part to understand the process elaborated by Hongbo. This was made clear when he exhibited at the Chinese contemporary art gallery "Klein Sun", in New York, USA, where he presented "Tools of study". These are reproductions in paper of classic busts, like "David" of Michelangelo, habitual figures in the education of the art´s students.

«When I started to study painting at a more serious, formal, and academic level, I liked working with models of plaster. Throughout the studies, and at the university also, I continued to make these sketches. I liked the idea of them staying in a place without moving and being able to manipulate them as I wished. Sometimes I painted them beautifully. Others, they were hideous and even broken, but the fact is that they never complained! To this day, they are my most loyal friends», says the artist, recalling his career in art.

Contrary to these static, immutable, and emotionless models he made in the past, his recent models move, allow interaction with the public, giving rise to a new art form. With paper, glue and cut, Li Hongbo, made sculptures that have the same appearance, profile and the same colour as models of plaster. However, this can be stretched, reversed and transformed into the hands of people. «It is as if those models of the past moved with my memory. It's like they're my friends, a reunion, even though it's been many years».

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