Audio Guide Stop #16 Lao Tongli
China has a very long and continuous tradition of painting beginning from around 200 BCE. Guangzhou-based artist Lao Tongli’s practice is a contemporary transformation of this centuries-old Chinese literati painting tradition. His work for the Triennial, The Desire of Libido No. 5, references the monumental landscape paintings of the Northern Song period, which is considered one of the pinnacles of landscape painting in China. This panorama of trees takes the form of a complex interlocking web of blood vessels, painstakingly rendered in the gongbi style, which reached its peak during the Tang and Song dynasties. Gongbi uses precise brushstrokes that portray details meticulously and with little variation. The artist began incorporating blood-vessel imagery as he endured the painful experience of observing his father’s death from heart disease. The association of blood vessels within the human body with an external landscape of trees is a poignant reminder of the deep and unbreakable bonds between humans and nature, a central theme of literati landscape painting.