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Review: Jiaxi Li’s Knot by Not 

ANGELICA NGAI reviews Jiaxi Li’s Knot by Knot exhibition at Unit 1 Gallery.

Jiaxi Li’s Knot by Not, displayed on the 2nd floor of Unit 1 Gallery between 5-26 November 2021, was certainly worth the visit. A London-based textile designer who focuses on innovative knit practice, Li majored in fashion design at Parsons School of Design in New York before completing her master’s studies at the Royal College of Art. This  exhibition, which featured a vibrant, knitted tapestry of her London home as its centerpiece, with other knitted domestic objects dotted around the room, blurred the line between public and private spheres – my favourites included a knitted rubber duck, and a rather disturbing doll’s head, that Li professes to be a self-portrait. 

According to the artist, this project ‘explores escapism as a self-protecting mechanism in a biographical format’. The exhibition space was full to the brim with objects that explore the internal and personal, in turn framing these ‘traces of humanity, history, and relationships’ that the artist delineates as central to the work. The following statement from the artist encapsulates the aims of the project: ‘These knitted sculptural works blur the undefined tension between reality and illusion’.

Installation view: Jiaxi Li’s Knot by Knot, Unit 1 Gallery, 5-26 November 2021. Image source: jiajiajiaxi.com.
Installation view: Jiaxi Li’s Knot by Knot, Unit 1 Gallery, 5-26 November 2021. Image source: jiajiajiaxi.com.

I had the privilege of chatting to Li in the gallery. I asked her about New York City and London, and how these cities differ in terms of supporting emerging artists. Without hesitation, Li answered ‘I’d say that London is much more welcoming compared to New York’. The artist expressed that she loves New York – ‘it’s a city filled with great art and great people’, she explained – but that if you’re looking to increase exposure as a recent graduate, specifically in terms of  seeking out platforms and spaces to exhibit your work, it is not an easy place. By comparison, the artist explained to me, London is kinder to new, emerging artists, citing the Ingram Collection as a great example of this. ‘New York is a city where you go after you’ve become established’, Li continued, ‘because once you’ve built up your reputation people will flock to buy and see your art. London, however, allows you space to grow as an artist’.

Installation view: Jiaxi Li’s Knot by Knot, Unit 1 Gallery, 5-26 November 2021. Image source: jiajiajiaxi.com.

Without a doubt, Li is an exciting graduate to keep an eye out for. Li mentioned in an interview that she will continue creating knitted sculptures for her Cloud 9.9 Space (see here for more), her current project, so we have much to look forward to. You can keep up with her work and upcoming exhibitions on her website or her instagram @liuliandaxia. 

Featured image: Installation view: Jiaxi Li’s Knot by Knot, Unit 1 Gallery, 5-26 November 2021. Image source: jiajiajiaxi.com.