"Youth's a stuff will not endure." – Shakespeare, Twelfth Night
The exhibition's title, Secret Love, originates in Li Guangxin's piece Noise Prohibited. The tears streaming down the cheeks of the innocent, beautiful girl in the picture, who would like to say something, but shows that she cannot with her hand, make me think of Oscar Wilde. Some one hundred years ago, the prosecutor asked him: "What is the love that dare not speak its name?" Compared to Britain in that day, tolerance is much greater in modern China, but homosexuality is still a taboo subject. There are clear limits in the expressive forms of visual art in particular. Therefore, Noise Prohibited could stand as a portrait for the entire exhibition.
Youth is perhaps the theme that interests Li Guangxin the most. Youthful faces, bodies, tears and pearls are recurring features in his work. The grief for the transience of youth are reminiscent of some central works in Western literature, such as Shakespeare's "Youth's a stuff will not endure" in Twelfth Night or Goethe's depiction of youth's impassioned and bitter sadness in The Sorrows of Young Werther. In the four works selected for Secret Love, tears are a central feature, tears of joy and pain, like pearls, but more beautiful and ephemeral.
Li Guangxin, who excels at calligraphy and ink painting in addition to Photoshop and enjoys reading Tang poetry and Taoist classics in his spare time, has written the following comment to the theme of youth, tears and pearls.
Si Han, Curator
There is an old saying to the effect that the two saddest things are to die young and to lose one's youth. I say that relatively, it is somewhat more fortunate to die young: life ends when it was at its most beautiful; it is of course sad, hard to face, but the alternative is worse – a subjugated prolongation, without choice, an extended torment to unconsciousness and loss of dignity.
Death and ageing is something we must all think about and endure; it is a constant theme of destiny that feels increasingly coercive and oppressive the older you get. And once we are finally confronted with this reality, only then do we fully understand what a precious time of our life youth was. The Tang poet Li Shangyin wrote: "When the love that remains is but a beautiful memory, my heart is filled with deep sorrow." The young are not aware of the value of youth. Time, energy and health are taken for granted. Life as a dream fantasy, but a dream that also encompasses meaninglessness, vanity, affectation, obstinacy and false hopes. Joy, frustration, insincerity, vanity, daydreams… And when the dreams of youth gradually fade, only then do we realise how much we have missed. No matter how we try, we cannot hold on to youth, which runs through our fingers. We see it vanish through wide-open eyes, far remote, and begin to feel anger at the joke life has played on us.
Youth is like a pearl, warm, moist, gleaming. But finally, it loses its sparkle, with the same fatality as we age and die. It is therefore that the love of pearls increases with age; they are carried next to the ageing skin, carefully cherished, caressed. Is it the pearls we value, or are they an expression for the grief caused by lost youth?
Li Guangxin 李广锌
1973: born in Chongqing
1994: graduated from Sichuan Fine Arts Institute
Lives and works in Beijing