Li Jikai: Fireflies

24 June - 24 July 2022

PIFO Gallery is pleased to present artist Li Jikai’ s solo exhibition Fireflies from June 24 to July 24, 2022. The exhibition is curated by Lu Mingjun and designed by Ouyang Kunlun, will include Li’ s latest paintings from the past two years, as well as his most important early works. This is also the first solo exhibition of Li Jikai since PIFO Gallery represented him.




Desktop, broken wood, height, wandering wave, creek, pig head, firefly, sleeping bag, tent, watermelon, building, mushroom, box, lantern, ruins, scavenger, backpacker, ignition, the floating earth


Lichen, fire watcher, tents undulating like mountains, branches and tendrils, a bunch of pedestrians walking in the wind in the night, crouched bird looking like a heart, water grass, green watermelon, purple night sky

                                            ——Li Jikai


Li Jikai sent these strictly illogical words and phrases to me before the opening of the exhibition, which, as he admitted, reflected his true feelings and real-life experiences in the process of preparing for the exhibition. The artist explained that, unable to express his ideas using complete sentences, he recorded fragmentary thoughts and random ideas. Although fragmented, in my opinion, those words and phrases might be the best annotations added to describe the exhibition. 


Most of the works on display were created after the outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan. Today, as the pandemic is still yet to end, it has continually panicked and frustrated people as it did during the previous lockdowns. This may not necessarily suggest what Li Jikai intended to describe and explain the rationale for his idea, however, to be honest, the artist could have been potentially motivated by it. Even though watermelons, mushrooms, and tents consist of the most essential image motifs of the exhibition, they appear to be illogically connected in the strict sense. They represent what he saw by accident and what he felt at the moment. Coincidentally, those things are not conventionally referred to as everyday “necessities”, but as “an excess” in daily life. Li Jikai chose to look into them as his subjects neither because they define any fundamental concepts nor because they are secondary or marginally represented. Li Jikai never works out plans ahead for what and how he is going to paint; instead, he only follows his heart. The reason why he painted watermelons, mushrooms, and tents is that he was touched, at the moment, by their unique shapes and the particular setting. 


As always, brush, acrylic, and linen canvas are all Li Jikai need for painting. The flexibility of the brush, the water-based nature of acrylic, and the texture of linen canvas allow him not only to enjoy the pleasure of “writing” but also to freely indulge in the transparent medium so as to articulate his genuine feelings and personal aspirations. Again, the ageless youth appeared in his paintings. Although things have changed as time goes by, his expression remains unchanged. In Li Jikai’s words, “as a bystander”, he is “constantly flashing amorous glances at the complex, cruel world”. Just like the flying fireflies in the paintings, he is reviving, lighting up the absurdity of the dark night, and guarding his own melancholy, perplexity, restlessness, and innocence. 


——Watermelons, Mushrooms, Tents: A Giant Boys Resting Places by Lu Mingjun (curator, researcher of art philosophy of Fudan University)




About the Artist


Li Jikai, born in 1975, Chengdu, Sichuan Province. He graduated from the Oil Painting Department of Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in 1999. In 2020, he graduated from the Chinese National Academy of Arts with a doctorate degree in fine arts. He is now teaching at Hubei Institute of Fine Arts.


The artist has exhibited at many prestigious venues in China and internationally, including the National Art Museum of China, Beijing Today Art Museum, Long Museum (Shanghai), Shanghai Minsheng Art Museum, Shanghai Power Station of Art, Fine Arts Literature Art Center, Saatchi Gallery (London, UK), Tokyo Art Club (Japan), Cobra Museum of Modern Art (Amsterdam, the Netherlands), and the Pacific Heritage Museum (San Francisco, USA). His works have been collected by major art institutions and collectors, including Beijing Today Art Museum, Long Museum (Shanghai), He Xiangning Art Museum (Shenzhen), Guangdong Art Museum, Hubei Art Museum, Wuhan Art Museum, MoCA (Singapore), and the Franks-Suss Collection (London).