Li Tianbing - 'Urban Scene'

Li Tianbing is a Chinese artist based in L.A. who studied at the Beaux-Arts in Paris. His work combines traditional Chinese painting techniques with Western influences.

The paintings in his 'Urban Scene' show at the JD Malat Gallery are inspired by the chaotic urban scenes and human conflicts he has witnessed in his native country, and throughout the world, fused with fragments from his imagination and autobiographical elements.


This show is a dazzling display of large scale works where abstraction and figurative elements collide to create bright compositions showing angst-ridden human bodies fighting for space within concrete jungles, surrounded by neon lights, speeding cars, selfie-taking drones and hostile crowds.

Themes such as wealth disparity, immigration, global conflicts and the rise of right wing conservatism provide the backdrop for Tianbing's exploration of conflicts.


His paintings are a cacophony of colours and a riot of textures and blurry shapes. His compositions crackle with energy and seem to be in almost in perpetual motion.

On these canvases conflict becomes almost a joyous event, a thing of beauty

The fact that in many of the works it is hard to tell at first glance what is going on somehow makes them more intriguing and powerful.


I am less convinced by the more detailed paintings where faces and figures are represented in a more traditional and detailed way.

For instance a painting representing several versions of Tianbing's face amidst grasping hands and angry fists ends up looking too much like a scene out of the Walking Dead for my liking to be truly impactful.


The show also contains smaller scale portraits where textures and smudged paint give the works an almost 3D effect.

There are shades of Francis Bacon in Tianbing's work, mixed with urban alienation and street art cool.


'Urban Scene' is on at the JD Malat gallery in London until 15 June.

(Images courtesy of the JD Malat gallery)