Introduction by Haruo Aoki

Six years have passed since we first exhibited Li-lan’s work, and the present show is her third exhibit at our gallery.

I was impressed the very first time that I saw her paintings. It was at Masuo Ikeda’s studio, and there I saw works with desks, chairs, doors, and eggs scattered over their surface. These familiar objects were, for the most part, painted deep red, blue, and yellow, and naked women were running away through the space between them. And as if in a turnabout, she also painted marvelously classical feminine profiles.

Three years went by and there was a complete change in the work she sent us from New York. The strong primary colors that she used in the past had disappeared from the canvas, and her basic color tone had now become light milk white and faint blue. Nails and notebooks now filled her surfaces instead of naked women, desks, and chairs. At that moment I sense that the true artist in Li-lan had been born.

Then, in February of this year, I visited her studio in snow-covered East Hampton. I was struck by the rapid strides she had taken in the works that were then right before my eyes. She had used clean writing paper and notebooks as her theme, and through her increasingly mature style, had boldly enlarged these momentary fragments of her colorful daily life. And yet, she had depicted them with the utmost delicacy. Torn letter paper and notebooks are clear and distinct as objects with their own simple form and, at the same time, as the artist’s image, but they also give rise to a vague sense of some sort of mystery.

A sheet of stationary with nothing at all written on it speaks to us. It tells us of her various memories and reminiscences of the past, of the changing flow of time. Of the futility, pain, and contentment that fill her days, and her anxiety for her tomorrows. It speaks to us, and even has a secret, silent sense of eroticism.

Li-lan has often told me how much she respects Georgia O’Keefe’s art and way of life. If only there be exacting method and tenacity of spirit, truly delicate and subtle expression in painting will persistently go on. I feel we can find that tenacity pervading Li-lan’s delicate canvases.

Haruo Aoki
Director – Nantenshi Gallery