"Behind the Beacon is a ceremonial process; its essence lies in ‘Yinze’—the full or diminishing glory of the sun and the moon." - Li Chen
Deriving inspiration from Buddhist and Taoist traditions, Li Chen combines contemporary abstraction and figuration to create playful yet powerful sculptures inspired by images of the Buddha. His figures resemble celestial beings and hermit-scholars, leaving viewers with a lasting impression of their humor and beauty.
Using nature as a guide, Li Chen frequently derives inspiration from organic forms and phenomena. In Fire Master , the artist has sculpted a smiling immortal bearing a floating flame, recalling the mythological gifting of fire from gods to humans. Since ancient times, fire has symbolized the human spirit, and the deity in this work seems to invite the viewer to join it in venerating the flame. Amidst darkness, firelight casts both light and shadow, embodying the central concepts of the I-Ching (the Book of Changes): that all things are one and the same, and that all things are perpetually changing.
In Fire Master , the deep black surface of the sculpture recalls the soft susurrus of an ink stick rubbing against stone, while the images of floating clouds and running water bring to mind the tolling of distant temple bells. By creating a strong visual experience that evokes the other sense, Li Chen bridges the gap between his work and his audience. The artist uses an inky black lacquer as well as gold and silver foil to make a heavy sculpture appear airy and ethereal as well as solidly material. Li delights in subtle humor – in Fire Master the billowing clouds bearing the immortal up from the mountain peak are depicted out of proportion, skewing the rational balance of the piece but injecting the work with a lighthearted sense of naiveté.
Li Chen has intentionally excluded the detailed accessories and adornments that typically accompany Buddhist statuary; instead, the rounded, smooth curves of the figure’s body convey a feeling of strength and honesty that echo the simple silhouettes sculpted by British artist Henry Moore. Yet Fire Master evokes a strong oriental aesthetic, with its round body seeming to encompass all living things. Li Chen once said, “When ancient Greek sculptors depict an angel, they must add a large pair of wings…whereas Chinese artists are different, needing only a ribbon to convey flight.” Li Chen’s sculptures are both ethereal and full of vigor, as if they themselves could take flight at any moment, spanning cultures and religions in pursuit of a higher realm.