Mr Shikumen

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Leisure Hours (2013)

Li Shoubai (李守白) is a Chinese contemporary heavy-colour painter and paper-cutting master. He was brought up in Shanghai in the family of an artist, and at the age of six, guided by his father, started to learn painting and paper cutting. His artistic training continued with the guidance of Chinese painter and Art Professor Lin Ximing.

Throughout his career, Li Shoubai has been actively involved in the development of Shanghai’s culture. He has committed his work and artistic practice to the protection and preservation of the Shanghai Shikumen cultural heritage. To the public he became widely known as “Mr. Shikumen”. His works have been collected by various organisations, such as the Shanghai Art Museum Collectors Association, Museum of Chinese Paper-Cutting in Beijing, Sino-Dutch Friendship Association, Austrian Charity Organisation “Licht ins Dunkel”, “Lettera27” Foundation in Milan, Italy, as well as the Starbucks Headquarters Office in Seattle, USA.

Shikumen residences, the true mirror of Shanghai’s traditional lifestyle and culture, are the principal subjects of Li Shoubai’s artworks. Captivated by longtangs’ vernacular architecture and lively urban energy, its facades and textures, residents and their stories, Li Shoubai has created a rich and colourful gallery of the city’s portraits.

The scenes that Li Shoubai chooses to depict capture the true essence of haipai life in Shanghai’s lilongs. Behind the unlocked shikumen gates, with a diligence of a narrator, the artist reveals the stories of longtang’s households: a family gathered around the table, a young maiden contemplating her beauty in front of the mirror, little kittens twirling around children’s feet, flickering lights in narrow corridors, flapping clothes drying in the courtyards, palm-leaf fan left behind on a yellow bamboo chair.

Shoubai Art, the artist’s gallery and art studio located in the heart of Tianzifang, and Shanghai Film Museum will present Lost in Shanghai’s Film World, an exhibition of artworks by the celebrated Shanghainese artist. From June 18 until October 31 2016, around a hundred works by the artist will be exhibited at the Shanghai Film Museum. It is by far the longest-running solo exhibition by Li Shoubai and will include his paintings and paper cut works created over the past 10 years.

By bringing Li Shoubai’s artworks under the roof of the Shanghai Film Museum, which houses a notable collection of Chinese cinematographic works, scripts and various priceless items, the organisers of the exhibition attempt to bring the world of art and film together in an effort to raise people’s awareness and increase their understanding of Shanghai’s distinctive haipai culture.

The development of cinema in China in the early 20th century was inseparable from the development of the city’s unique and pulsating haipai culture. The innovative spirit that permeated the city drove in cutting edge technologies from overseas that were beneficial for the development of the Chinese film industry. Shanghai’s longtangs were ubiquitous and an often essential element of the mise-en-scène for tales of urban life, as can be glimpsed in some of the classics of Chinese film history.

To facilitate a greater number of Li Shoubai’s artworks exhibited to the public in a comprehensive and timely manner, the duration of the exhibition has been extended up to four months and split into three stages. From June 18 to July 17 2016, Li Shoubai’s paintings along with a sculpture, In The Mood For Love, by Lingnan artist Pan Bolin will be on show. The second stage of the exhibition will start on July 18 through August 14 and will feature Li Shoubai’s paper cuttings. The final stage of the exhibition, from September 5 to October 31 will display Li Shoubai’s most recent paintings.

Li Shoubai’s works have an inseparable relationship with the past. However, the artist doesn’t simply document it, his works capture the city’s unique urban energy that existed in the past and continues to exist in the present. This exhibition attempts to recall the collective memories of the city’s past and evoke nostalgic feelings among the audience. The exhibition aspires to bring haipai’s heritage under the spotlight of attention to a modern day citizen.

Address: Shoubai Art Gallery, Tianzifang, 210 Taikang Road, bldg. 4.

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