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Daily Drip

Artist Li Yiwen is Making Erotic Chinese Ink Stamps

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If you want to make sure a document is really going to be worth anything in China, you’ve got to get it “chopped”, i.e. stamped with red ink from a company or organization’s seal. Where in the West a scrawled signature makes a contract legally binding, in China the chop is the thing. It’s a practice that’s been going on for centuries and has spun off into the art world, with signature seals being joined by those used for artistic decoration.

And now, Henan-born artist Li Yiwen has put a modern twist on the art form, with a range of stamps featuring contemporary images inspired by spotting one of his neighbors watching TV late at night. Not that you’d know at first glance:

Looking a lot like some pretty standard, high-end chops. But then you see the images that they print out:

As part of the blurb that accompanies the sale of these chops, the artist states:

I have always had the hobby of engraving, occasionally when I’m immersed in it, it feels like a kind of catharsis. Once I looked up and saw the young man in the opposite building watching a film, the small box of light from the screen was like a chic seal in the darkness of the night. I began to try to extract images from the screen by using the traditional engraving method to pull out the shapes and structure.

The range is being promoted by Flying Blind, the “diversified and experimental art organization” and “multicultural concept space” who previously brought us a Xiao He album on WeChat and recently sold Mid-Autumn Festival mooncakes with “hidden contemporary art” from the likes of Xu Zhen (aka MadeIn) and Chen Xiaoyun:

If you want to buy the stamps, or the mooncakes for that matter (which are now on sale), you can hit up Flying Blind’s WeChat store. Each set of seals costs 5,000RMB (around 730USD) and comes with a certificate of authenticity which, oddly, is signed by the artist, not chopped.

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Jake Newby
Jake Newby is a Shanghai-based writer and editor with more than a decade's experience living and working in China. Previously managing editor of Time Out Shanghai, he's also written for publications such as South China Morning Post and the Financial Times.

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