“It is the details in life that I pay the closest attention to … things others ignore or shun.”

Born Xian, Shanxi, 1977. Lives and works in Beijing.

Liang Yuanwei’s art is driven by ideas: about calm and chaos, transience and timelessness, romance and solitude. In Salt Series—Little Clocks (2006), tiny watch hands are attached to a woman’s shirt and shoes, a passport, a cigarette pack, and a sachet of desiccant. Just as salt dissolves in water, the artist seems to say, so the things that consume us dissolve in time. For the 26 oil paintings in the series Piece of Life (2008-09), she spent up to twelve hours a day recreating with painstaking fidelity the patterns and textures of old fabric scraps. A false stroke meant starting over again from scratch, something she was forced to do more than once. The works seem to reflect on female labour and the beauties of domesticity, but the real point was the process of making them, she says: it was a way to calm her “inner motion” and tame the chaos of life. “I have always felt,” she says, “that truly great work should be silent like scenery. One experiences its deep meaning when one’s mind moves with it.”

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