PICA is proud to present the second major solo exhibition of Li Gang’s photographs in Australia. Curated by Australian artist Tony Trembath, Li Gang: in the grey scale surveys the recent photographic work of this Australian-trained Chinese artist.
Although its origins are in sculpture, Li Gang’s creative practice now crosses a range of media, with particular attention to photography. The exhibition presents the evolution of Li Gang’s photography from random shooting and loose darkroom techniques to his current use of extraordinary large-format handmade cameras. The use of hand-built cameras introduces risk and accidents to Li Gang’s work. In his photographs, instead of control and mastery, there is magic and mystery. The photographic darkroom was always a place of magic and mystery, where alchemy and science turned silver halides into pictures. Li Gang returns to these roots. Images, mainly of exterior spaces, expose process and experimentation as the primary concerns of Li Gang’s practice.
The philosophy of the Victorian College for the Arts of the University of Melbourne (VCA) sculpture department where Li Gang studied was “truth to materials.” This tenet certainly struck a chords with the artist; it could be argued that it is at the core of all his creative production. “Truth to materials” remains the constant and unifying element across his practice, as he researches and tests an endless stream of ideas, processes and opportunities. Working outside the mainstream of contemporary Chinese photography, Li Gang investigates the relationship between camera-film-subject-light-chemicals-artist, while his research has led to a distinctive style. This style was initially an artefact of primitive pinhole cameras and various found cameras (Kodak Brownie Box, for instance) which he reconfigured for pinhole photography.