It's not often your Culture section advises you to put on your shoes and get down to something as a matter of urgency but, dear Reader, put on your shoes and get down to Stephen Friedman Gallery with a matter of urgency. Closing on Saturday is their latest exhibition, a series of large-scale canvasses by the Chinese artist Li Tianbing.
Li is regarded as one of the leading Chinese painters of his generation. Stephen Friedman Gallery present eight of them (and if they haven't all sold already my jaw will break as it hits the ground). The paintings are abstracted portraits in which Li reminisces on his childhood and the effect of China's one-child rule. The portraits are captured oneiric moments, and the through the litany of white noise and cultural detritus there is something captivating behind in the eyes of the children, Li's subjects. I'm not quite sure if it's magic or something even less definable. I'd hate to think it might be anything else.
But that possibility remains, dear Reader. Trained in Paris, Li's technique is deft, classical and rooted in a modernist style that is nearly impossible to find executed at such a level of proficiency. Li's childhood in China went largely unrecorded; cameras were valuable items and were beyond common reach of his family. If these paintings represent his memories, even in any small measure, they're beautiful and as haunting and all the better for it.
Li Tianbing is at Stephen Friedman Gallery until this Saturday, 21 April.