Li Guoyi, better
known as Guyi, was born in Shanghai, China, in 1948. She studied
at Hangzhou's National Academy of Fine Arts. Guyi began her
professional career as an illustrator and art editor at the
Zhejiang People's Fine Art Press. Her children's book illustrations
earned her a silver cup at the International Illustration Exhibition
in Switzerland in 1984 and a second place prize in an exhibition in
Iran in 1990.
It was in the early 1990s that Guyi decided to concentrate full-time as a professional artist. In October of 1990, her meticulous style paintings, known as gongbi in Chinese, were put on exhibition for the first time at the Zhejiang Academy of Fine Arts where critics praised her for her clear and elegant style. Her paintings traveled to Beijing, Germany, Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan. She won a medal at a contemporary Chinese gongbi art exhibition, an honor at an international art show in France, and a bronze medal at the Toronto International Ink and Wash Painting Exhibition. Guyi held large-scale art shows in Hong Kong, Singapore, San Francisco, and at Art Wind Gallery in Manhattan in 1992 and 1993. In 1995, her work was exhibited at the World Bank Headquarters in Washington, D.C. in the exhibition, Chinese Female Artists, for which she was the Chinese liaison. The World Bank acquired her painting, Picking Mulberry Leaves. Presently, Guyi is Vice-President of the Hangzhou Institute of Fine Arts and Director of the Zhejiang Association of Fine Artists.
Guyi's unique style derives from a successful blending of two opposing styles of Chinese painting, the meticulous or gongbi style meaning "industrious brush" and the spontaneous or xieyi style meaning "writing ideas." The opposition between these two styles is a reflection of the opposition on a deeper level between the two extreme attitudes possible for an artist: academic realism and free expression of mood. Technically speaking, the two styles are made possible by the extraordinary versatility of the Chinese brush which can provide the artist with a range of strokes from a quill-like hairline to a broad stoke of splashed ink.
Guyi's gongbi style developed out of her conscientious study of the ancient artistic tradition of the Song dynasty palace painters. Generally, it is her figures and their attire, often taken from Chinese mythology and folklore that are executed in this gongbi style using gold and silver outline with bright cinnabar, azurite, and malachite. Far from being merely decorative, careful and meticulous painting, when executed well, can produce splendidly vivacious and vivid paintings.
From the xieyi style emanates brushwork of exuberance that simplifies, abstracts, and concentrates. It works by suggestion and omission, aiming to catch a mood. Guyi's successful combination of gongbi and xieyi is her artistic contribution to contemporary Chinese painting. The subtle wash brushed over and under her "realistic" and careful brushwork gives birth to a poetic elegance and refinement that is somewhat mystical in nature. To be master of both techniques is undeniably difficult, while to combine the two successfully in a single harmonious work of art takes the courage and creativity of an extraordinary talent.
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