Li Shun



Before ever setting foot in the US, Li Shun had traveled the country extensively through a virtual private network that allowed him to access Google Maps in China. On his “imaginary tours” (a term borrowed from the Chinese practice of woyou, or traveling via landscape paintings), he became acquainted with the land and its culture and began making intimate, atmospheric drawings of sites he had explored. In a fascinating show that marks the artist’s first physical trip to the US, Li chronicles the process of his authentic study of place.

The artist’s series “Internet Sketch,” 2018–19, features multipart compositions: Several works contain a screenshot of a particular Google Maps location supplemented by three different renderings of the that image—Polaroid, digital photograph, and landscape drawing. Some of the works also include a small, austere screen that transmits the same online snapshot. Somehow, the repetition is not redundant but intriguing, a careful meditation on a precise place and time that, in reality, might seem unremarkable.

The Google Maps image in Sketch - Ocean 2, 2018, contains a loading glitch that warps the direction of ripples in the ocean, lifting a section of it above the rest of the water. From afar, Li’s charcoal drawing of the screenshot would look like a black-and-white photograph were it not for this strange protrusion of water, in the vague shape of a trapezoid. Because of the warm gray tones, and perhaps due to the subtle texture of the book pages on which Li drew the picture, the sketch feels ancient, as if from a time when an unnatural force could truly lift part of the ocean. 


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March 22, 2019