It's not every day that Wallpaper* is invited to slash an artwork in a gallery, but when the Beijing-based artist Li Yonggeng asked us to choose our weapon of choice we didn't hesitate. We eschewed the steak knife, screwdriver and scissors for a razor sharp paper blade and transformed the canvas with a dramatic backhand slash.
The work forms part of the artist’s signature 20-year-long series titled Sew, which transforms the process of ‘destruction’ into a ‘healing’ experience as he repairs each tear with intricate hand stitches.
The exhibition is the first time Yonggeng has invited viewers to participate in the process. ‘It is like a release. I usually invite friends who are troubled to cut the canvas,’ he says. ‘Some take seconds to think about it but one took a year to decide. After I complete the needlework I feel very happy.’
A second trademark theme – Do – is also on show, with several installations comprising his personal clothing and furniture.
‘The materials I use are very personal but most people have similar things so I hope they feel comfortable with them,’ Yonggeng explains. ‘I want to give these a new life.’
This series is focused on creating a ‘home-like’ space, here accomplished with a dome tent featuring a patchwork of t-shirts and shorts; a sculpture of matching shoes; and an intriguing collage of two toothbrushes, nails and thread. The standout piece, however, is a simple timber bench entirely encrusted in nails.
‘Home is not about a space but more about a warm and comforting feeling,’ he explains. ‘I don’t really like the hotel so am spending a lot of time in the gallery.’