The sur-real universe depicted in Li Shan's paintings is a world inhabited by magical creatures, half humans – half animals, figures with butterfly wings and other mutant beings. This imaginary world is informed by poetic and erotic sensibility along with an undercurrent of unease and estrangement. Here, the painted world is based on a principle of ambiguity and questions of what human existance is and where it is going. In terms of artistic style, the artist has adopted decorative methods similar to those of folk art, thus creating intimate, eccentric and oddly organic objects
Most recently in a photographic series entitled "Reading" (2005-ongoing), he has created imagery of various insects and plants. Closer viewing reveals that these creatures are composed of human body parts like fingers, ears and genitalia. Through his uncannily realistic representation of interspecies insects, Li Shan underscores his pre-occupation with bio-politics and its consequences. The synthesized insects are constructions of digital imagery morphed into yet another crossbreed. He raises the question of whether it is still possible to identify the boundaries between any particular organism and the world it inhabits.
Li Shan was one of the leading figures of Shanghai's avant-garde movement in the 1980s. His work has been exhibited internationally in solo and group exhibitions such as Painting the Chinese Dream: Chinese Art 30 Years after the Revolution, that traveled through America, ending at the Brooklyn Museum, China's New Art, Post 1989 Art Centre (Hong Kong) and the 45th Venice Biennale. Li Shan was born in Lanxi County in Heilongjiang province and graduated from the Shanghai Academy of Drama in 1968.