London-based artist Sheng Qi is probably best known for his act of personal defiance following the events in Tiananmen Square in June 1989: he cut off the little finger of his left hand.

Since then, he has incorporated the image and concept of this self-mutilation into his work, which includes photography, painting, sculpture, and performance art.

His recent work continues in the vein of subtle but firm subversion and quiet political protest.

No informed conversation about the development of Chinese performance art can bypass Sheng Qi, whose work remains unusual, brave and adventurous. By 1986 he had already thrown himself into a pioneering practice, working in symbolic locations including Peking University (1986), the Yuanmingyuan (1987) and on the Great Wall (1988).

Those seminal events were important contributions to a young field, and looking back at their documentation, readers will feel Sheng Qi’s passion for art and for the intense cultural transgression his works represented in their time.

More recently, he has begun with portraits of children in a rigorous academic painting style, and through their "destruction" and "revision," constructed a painting language that explores the aesthetics of violence and criticism, and their commonalities.

Work in public collections