Li Wentao’s Cryptic Paintings of Contemplative Women
Chinese artist Li Wentao’s work is theatrical. It’s not just way the artist stages the lone character, a young, fragile woman, always barefoot, always in some state of undress. Clearly something’s on her mind. It’s the way we identify with her, just as we identify with, become invested in, a play’s protagonist.
It’s easy to conflate the artist and subject. The woman looks out a window, off to the side, at the viewer. We can’t describe, much less identify, her expression. Pensive, wary, frightened? Or does she share some quiet secret, some personal conspiracy? In any event, she doesn’t wear her face-the-world face. We don’t know her story but we want to. We want to keep looking at the work, hoping for some resolution of whatever situation she’s in.