Among his peers, Mao Lizi can be described as one of the first who truly embodied what it means to create abstract paintings as a Chinese artist though, interestingly, he was not always an abstract painter. As one of the founding members of the Stars Group that emerged immediately after the Cultural Revolution, Mao and his cohort were set to change the perspective of the Chinese people. As a country still living the traumatic experiences caused by the politics of that time, the Stars Group championed individuality and freedom of speech.
During this time, Mao Lizi was known for his hyper-realistic paintings. With their depictions of a world that had gone beyond a common accepted reality, Mao’s paintings presented the minute details of the urban landscape along with fading symbols of a changing era. The work from the 1980s effectively framed an historical narrative of this pivotal moment in time.
In the 1990s Mao spent time in France teaching, and beginning in 2000 attempted to develop a career in architecture. After exposure to a wide range of Western traditions, Mao dedicated himself to creating purely abstract forms. Mao further sought to create what he believed to be true Chinese abstraction. As traditional Chinese art rarely deviated from the figurative, this investigation lead Mao to create his most recent series of work, in which he incorporates a sense of natural rhythm uncontrolled by the painter. He notes, “Before splashing, I think carefully about the structure of the painting as a rough idea. But to some extent, the final result is often beyond my control. The randomness is full of uncertainties, but it means it can bring about more possibilities and can develop into infinite paths.”
Mao Lizi’s style has changed dramatically over the years, and his career seems to have gone from one extreme to the other. However, one thing that remains constant is his urge to break his own boundaries, to abandon old paths in order to face new challenges, and for that, Mao Lizi is a Chinese master of abstraction.