cover art for Li Hei Di

Talk Art

Li Hei Di

Season 20, Ep. 11

We meet artist Li Hei Di on the eve of their debut UK solo exhibition 700 Nights of Winter at Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London.

In new paintings, Li explores primal, sexual urges with their signature fluid application of paint. Balanced on a knife edge between abstraction and representation, paintings feature figures that swim in and out of view beneath diaphanous veils of paint; each layer offers a different world, or a portal to an altered oneiric space, guided by desire and emotion. Multiple perspectives collide and overlap, creating dynamic compositions that offer manifold realities within a single work. Luminescent orbs appear as though submerged in deep water, giving the compositions a nebulous quality.

Li’s multidisciplinary practice is concerned with repressed desire, rooted in personal experiences of navigating hetero-normative environments that obstruct open expressions of queerness. Their work eschews rigid sexual codes and gender categories in favour of a liberated approach to fantasy and beauty, which exists apart from hierarchical and dominant social structures. For Li, the dichotomous relationship between sexual arousal and repression finds a parallel in the covert ways in which erotic love flourishes on cold winter nights, as bodies become entangled in pursuit of warmth, lost but for the other. The existential threat posed to romantic love by the culture of narcissism engendered under globalised capitalism sets the stage in Li’s work for the negation of the self, in the radical recognition of another, as espoused in the writings of cultural theorist Byung-Chul Han.

This commingling of two entities is found not only in humankind but in the natural world too, and Li’s work explores the role animal pollinators play in the reproductive lives of plants. Such co-evolved relationships encapsulate the exuberance of life in connection with erotic activity and, therefore, death.

In this new body of work Li also investigates the ways in which desire manifests and, notably, declines under the ‘pharmacopornographic regime’, a term coined by philosopher Paul B. Preciado to describe the intersection of the pharmaceutical and pornographic industries.


Li Hei Di (b. 1997, Shenyang, China) lives and works in London and received her MA in Painting from the Royal College of Art and a BA (Hons) from Chelsea College of Arts and the Maryland Institute College of Art. In 2024, Li will have a solo exhibition at Pond Society, Shanghai and will be part of a group exhibition at Le Consortium, Dijon. Recent exhibitions include Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (2023); X Museum Triennial, Beijing (2023); Marguo, Paris (2023); Green Family Art Foundation, Dallas (2023), TX; CICA Vancouver (2023); Gagosian, Hong Kong (2023), and Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London (2023), amongst others.

Li Hei Di’s new solo exhibition runs from 15th March - until 20th April 2024. Free entry.

Follow @Plum_Black_Field and @PippyHouldsworthGallery


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