Carving out the lines of visual intimacy in the story of a Chinese artist and collector
The Chinese in Africa / Africans in China Research Network Conference Organising Committee in collaboration with the Centre for Cultural Research and Development at the Department of Cultural Studies, Lingnan University, Hong Kong; and the Institute for Emerging Markets Studies at HKUST.
CAAC2021 9th Online Mini-symposium : Distances and Intimacies
Online Session via Zoom
This paper explores the ways visual intimacy is performed and enabled by the agency of knives in art making and art appreciation by a Chinese artist and collector who lives between South Africa and China. Based on a biographical study of Li Shudi, it demonstrates the use of the knife physically and metaphorically in facilitating multiple accesses of proximity that pulls together traces of informal, obscured interconnections of ordinary individuals in the South (Baasch, Folárànmí, Koide, Kakande and Simbao 2020). The use of a knife, on the one hand, provides “restorable reach” (Schutz and Luckmann, 1973) to Li’s memory of carving Mao’s profile during the Chinese Cultural Revolution and it also provides a link to his vulnerable experience of working as a graphic designer in a Taiwanese owned carpet factory in South Africa, where he carved patterns on the handle of a knife and used it as a means of protection. On the other hand, it also provides a reflective reach to the learning experience with his lecturer Liu Tiehua (1917- 1997), who was one of the primary artists in the Modern Woodcut Movement in China (1930-40s), and to his print collecting practices in South Africa. A sense of visual intimacy is activated by Li as he carries the bold and often crude lines of Liu’s style in woodcarving and the spirit of an emotional rawness and humility with him in art making and collecting practices in South Africa. The paper substantiates the visual intimacy by interweaving visual analysis of Li's collection of Japanese prints, and artworks of a South African community artist Edith Bukani as well as Li’s artworks. It proposes the visual intimacy maintained by individuals like Li Shudi as a new way of seeing the obscured and complex co-presence of informality, proximity, and mobility within the broad discourse of China-Africa contacts.
Hu, B. (2022, January 21). Carving out the lines of visual intimacy in the story of a Chinese artist and collector [Video podcast]. Retrieved from https://commons.ln.edu.hk/videos/935/