Mowen Li

Artist Statement

While globalization has brought many benefits to us such as economic growth and technical development, we are also facing more challenges than ever before. How to ensure sustainability in the face of rapid development? How can peaceful development be achieved in areas of conflict? Under the diverse impact of different cultures, how can people understand and communicate with each other? And with the spread of Western culture including contemporary art, pop music, movies, and fashion, how are our cultural identities being influenced and eroded? These are all the questions that I seek to explore in my work.  

As a millennial artist, my mission is to promote cross-cultural understanding and global sustainable development through art creations and storytelling. Working at the  intersection of fine arts and social activities, I strive to achieve my vision by exploring three aspects in my practice: 

I and Self

The first aspect of my art practice is the concept of self. Through experimenting with different materials and mediums — namely, acrylic painting, fabric collage, visual diaries — I aim to find out how to use art as a visual medium for better self-expression and self-understanding while living in different cultural environments. Now, I use travel as my performance. Through living with local people and being immersive in a totally new culture, I record my experience, observation, and reflections, in the form of visual diary.  

I and Others

By exploring the relationship between self and others, the second aspect of my art is to seek the universal language which brings all human beings together, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, nationality, religion, or cultural background, and to pose critical questions about power and conflicts. My work is driven by a belief that art can connect people and create intercultural dialogue. Now, I use mural painting as the form through which I can connect people on one wall to share their stories. 

I and the World

To fulfill our self-values, we need to be engaged with society. Similarly, a work of art is not isolated but closely connected with society. Aiming to be a socially responsible artist,  how to use art to make the world a better place is the third aspect of my practice. My hope is to call for more awareness and encourage actions that address the UN  Sustainable Development Goals, especially women's rights, peace, and climate change.  So now, I collaborate with UN, Development Bank, and other NGOs and institutions in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Syria to run art workshops and design participation art activities to engage more people to be aware of social issues there.  

I believe that everyone has a mission to contribute to the world. For me, I aspire to devote 100% of myself to achieving my mission: To promote cross-cultural understanding and global development through art and storytelling. I believe that passionate minds recognize each other and will jointly make our world a better place.


Born in China after the reform and opening up, Mowen Li grew up in an era that initially embraced globalization, while facing the complex relationship between Chinese patriotic education and the world.  

At the age of 19, Mowen left China for the first time for a cultural exchange in North Cyprus, an island divided by the war between Turkey and Greece. Living and working with more than 100 youth from different countries and territories, she had her life-changing experience there. Since then, Mowen decided to explore the world — especially areas facing conflict — with her own eyes, instead of believing in what the media said. Within six years, Mowen went to more than 30 countries and territories with  AIESEC, a youth-led organization which envisions Peace and Fulfillment of  Humankind’s potential, to work with local people and organizations on social issues and leadership development.  

The more places Mowen has been to and the more people she collaborated with the more she realized that larger social change requires more people to be aware and to take action. Her interventions are driven by a belief that art has the fundamental power to evoke awareness and emphasis on social issues. So, at the age of 25, Mowen decided to be an artist.  

Mowen’s art journey started in Iran and Afghanistan, where she initiated the Persian Princess project. By painting portraits of women in chador, she hoped to lead more conversations about women's rights, peace, and cross-cultural understanding. Inspired by the French photography artist JR, Mowen believes the best gallery is on the street and belongs to everyone, so she started her mural art project Color Up in slums and communities of Manila, the Philippines, where she invited local street artists to create murals together on local houses so as to transform the street into a more positive and hopeful space. 

Mowen has studied fine arts at Royal College of London, and Central Academy of Fine  Arts in Beijing. Currently, she finds her inspiration in the Middle East region as she feels that it is the place where the West and the East collide and where common ground between the world can be found. Therefore, she chose to study in the MFA program at  NYU Abu Dhabi while exploring the region and engaging in art projects. By collaborating with organizations and communities, Mowen hopes to create a dialog about intercultural understanding and to call for more awareness and actions toward peace,  sustainability, and women's rights.