Artist Ying Li Impresses with Exhibit, Insights

Students from Anhui Normal University in China, completing the second phase of their 2+2 program at Brenau, weren’t expecting an alumna of their school to give a talk about her artwork on Nov. 13. Ying Li, an ANU graduate of 1977, is professor and chair of fine arts at Haverford College in Pennsylvania.

Her unique style of rendering landscapes in oil raised a number of interesting questions during her Nov. 13 artist talk at Brenau. Many of them related to colors and the amount of abstraction that characterizes her work.

“You need to see things your own way. There is no right or wrong way to see,” she explained. “I paint landscapes, but this doesn’t mean I show every item exactly as it is.” One of her favorite anecdotes involved a little girl watching her paint at the shore of a lake. “I’m painting that boat,” she replied when the girl asked about the subject of her work. Her young visitor examined the painting in progress, and finally asked, “Where’s the boat?”

An audience new to her style may first see a collection of paint dabs in many different colors. After stepping back and looking at a painting from greater distance, shapes and depths evolve. Tranquil hues of blue and green are interspersed with loud specs of orange, standing out like exclamation marks in the landscape renditions.

“I paint nature,” Li said. “Nature is not smooth. It’s messy. It’s many different things.”

The attending students, including education and humanities majors among those from the Art & Design Department, took away a sense of enrichment. “This is done differently than I have ever seen,” said Qingyuan Zhu, a graduate student of interior design. “It opens a whole new way of looking at the world.”