Li Hongbo Chinese, b. 1974

Li Hongbo is best known for his works of paper designed after a technique inspired by so-called honeycomb lanterns, which are seen traditionally during Chinese festivities. The artist utilises handmade processes, stacking and gluing together thousands of sheets of paper which he then carves, just like a block of marble. The artworks obtained through this technique, though apparently compact, are in fact flexible: they can stretch, unfold like accordions, behave like a pliable material that allows for all sorts of surprising shapes.


The work of Li Hongbo brings about, in a systematic and methodical way, a reversal of values. What seemed at first to be hard and rocklike turns out to be flexible, what appeared static can be moved, what looked like a smooth surface is changed into a rough, honeycomb carapace. In the same way, what was reminiscent of ancient statuary, tradition, academism, becomes an object freed from all categories. A contemporary work of art in the fullest sense of the term.


The artist is interested also in the symbolic connections that paper lends itself to, as a material linked to education, knowledge, culture in general. In 2016, in an exhibition called Textbooks, Li Hongbo presented a series of portraits of children entirely made of, as the name implies, textbooks. The exhibition made for a striking representation of the world of education and the shaping of individuals. Li Hongbo often strives to offer what he calls “an interpretation of the successive stages of life,” from childhood to old age. “May I be like a piece of paper: pure at birth and silent in death,” the artist likes to say, with his usual knack for poetry.


Li Hongbo was born in 1974 in Jilin Province, in the north of China. He graduated from the Normal School of Fine Arts in Jilin and the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. His work has been shown in galleries around the world and in prestigious institutions such as the Sydney Biennale and the Minsheng Art Museum in Beijing. He currently lives in Beijing.