Ying Li: Formal & Furious Landscapes

Ying Li, The Last Tree, 2015, oil on canvas, 20 x 16 inches (photo: John Goodric
Ying Li, The Last Tree, 2015, oil on canvas, 20 x 16 inches (photo: John Goodrich)

John Goodrich reviews Ying Li: Paintings at John Davis Gallery, Hudson, New York, on view through November 8, 2015.

Goodrich observes that "what’s most remarkable about these paintings is the way they combine this indulgent technique with a respectful eye for traditional composition. Her paintings reflect the visual aspect of real scenes — landscapes in Switzerland and Maine, as the titles indicate — and despite their violent surfaces, they locate forms with pictorial, if not topographical, conviction... As with any capable colorist, Li’s hues don’t simply depict objects but impart a sense of presence. A certain freewheeling discipline gives coherence to these dislocations of color, ordering their intervals across the canvas. “The Last Tree” may have the most tortured surface of all, but we sense a hard yellow receding in space as a sun-splashed path, framed by the elusive blue-greens of shadowed foliage — furiously knitted as strokes, but evanescent in hue. A few jabs of floating white establish flashes of sky behind; streaks of deep blue-blacks, pressed directly from the tube, stand as the adamant trunk of a tree. These events connect in frenetic harmony — or perhaps, in a unity of disharmonies. Is the single stab of pale, green yellow a distant sunlit tree? It’s impossible to say, but it convinces as a natural, observed phenomenon."