In 1979, a state move administered a one-child policy throughout China. Widely regarded as a means of controlling overpopulation, the one-child policy gave urban mothers across China an overwhelming responsibility to bear a single heir to the family and their rural counterparts were only permitted a second child if the first-born was a daughter. Long endeared in Asian cultures, a son is preferred to carry on the family name and ekk out a living, contributing to the family income, leading to the demise of daughters through forced or selective abortions and female infanticide.
Li Ji Kai, born in Chengdu, Sichuan, 1975 is part of that generation and insightfully explores the effects of this social illness plaguing today’s China. Through the physical manifestations of young Chinese boys in sculptures and paintings, Li illustrates their disengagement with their environment and the preoccupied self-indulgence that that he observes in their daily lives.
Where the 1960s and 1970s Chinese youth were encouraged to pit each other towards ideological fervour and join Red Guard groups to unleash Mao’s brand of political terror, the post-revolution generation are pampered with consumerism, technology and the indulgences of individualism. Coined as Little Emperors and Empresses, they no longer rally round political gods; choosing instead to embrace Deng Xiaopeng’s cushioned views and open economy to obtain the money they so desperately desire.
Their languid self-importance is seen in his sculptures such as ‘Relief’ where even something inherently natural and a personal duty is taken for granted – perched atop his lavatory throne, he is aloof without urgency in the knowledge. In ‘Box’, the heavy-lidded eyes depict a mind sluggish from inactivity and laden with the mark of captialism. Perhaps they are indeed dreaming as their incapabilities cannot sustain a bright future. In all his sculptures and paintings, the boys are well-dressed as affluent Chinese parents shower their only offspring with excess luxuries that the children see as their birthright to receive.
Besides overpopulation, the policy attempted to counter China’s depletion of limited natural resources, aggravated by the heavily-industralised Mao regime. Li’s “Breathing Exchange” series of paintings depict the post-revolution generation of little emperors languishing amidst rampaged landscapes and polluted air; a harbinger of the gloomy future that lies ahead. Li’s academic involvement in animation reveals itself in the style of the “Breathing Exchange” works, revealing influences from avant-garde, street art and the freestyle illustrations associated with digital graphic design.
Li's works have been exhibited throughout China since 2002 in Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing, Hubei and Guangzhou, as well as the "Path - China-France Exhibition" in Paris in 2004.
Wuhan, China, Wuhan Art Museum, From Scenes to Scenes of Culture: Studies on Post-Seventy Artists, 31 May-21 June Redefined, the doubts and sense in 70's art, Today Art Museum, Beijing, Within you, without you. Dialogue Space, Beijing, China 2010
Reflection, Canvas International Art, Amsterdam, Holland Reshaping history. Chinart from 2000 to 2009. China national convention center. Beijing 2009
Hong Kong, China, Tang Contemporary Art, Muddy New Trends: Fifteen Contemporary Chinese Artists, The Pacific Heritage Museum, San Francisco,USA, Art Basel, Basel, Switzerland China Mania, Arken Art Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark 2008
Zurich, Switzerland, Art Seasons Gallery, Small Worlds: Paintings of Li Jikai Clear, Today Art Museum, Beijing, China Walking alone: Canvas International Art, Amsterdam, Holland Contemporary Art, HongKong, China 2007
Clear, Shanghai Museum of Fine Arts, Shanghai, China,