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Liu Wei Profile Work Biography  



Liu Wei

  On the Internet and in the Press:



Born in 1965 in Beijing, Wei LIU was one of the major artists associated with the Cynical Realism (Wanshi xianshizhuyi) movement that emerged post 1989. Earning his degree from the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing in 1989, Liu would go on to create paintings that typified much of the malaise felt post-Tiananmen Incident.

Like his counterpart Fang Lijun, Liu has been perceived as displaying a kind of mischievous humour in his work, exemplifying the skepticism engendered after the brief but idealistic period starting from the end of the Cultural Revolution and leading up to the year 1989. With Deng Xiaoping’s economic and social reforms introduced in the late 1970s, China began opening its doors to new ideas, including capitalistic ideology and western culture. During this period intellectuals challenged past Maoist repressive modes, allowing new ideologies and philosophies to emerge and flourish, which in a sense created a certain air of idealism and freedom to think amongst the population.

Optimism generally ran high during the 1980s, until events in 1989 took a sudden change of course. Authorities reasserted their control with vehemence that year, canceling China’s first attempt to stage an officially sanctioned avant-garde exhibition (China/ Avant-Garde), and then cracking down on the pro-Democracy movement in Tiananmen Square. Once again China was abruptly plummeted into a state of conservatism and control. Liu, like many others were left feeling disenchanted.

Initially inspired by Chinese calligraphy, landscape and ink painting, as well as European New Expressionist painting, Liu Wei’s painting underwent a gradual process of fusion and reinterpretation of past models.. An inner, as well as societal anxiety is expressed in the destroyed environment that Liu depicts. His landscape easily becomes a mental one when penetrated by an individual. But the landscape can also be perceived as universal, having survived some nuclear catastrophe. As an image of destruction emerges a message for the protection of nature and the health of human beings.

His flowing and breathing use of paint creates a certain fluidity that the viewer can easily penetrate. The paint takes on its own existence from the unity of the painting, as it breathes into the canvas infusing it with color, and out of the canvas spilling on to its surface. The brushstrokes express a powerful force, laid out with a perceivable energy and rhythm on to the surface. Through its intricate use of paint, the canvas is a testimony to the artist’s passion for his medium, paint. “I started to reflect on how I could depart from the standard criteria of representation of the most typical Chinese landscape tradition. The models I resorted to are very classical, yet I wanted to use my own way to handle them. At the beginning, for instance, I was influenced by Badashanren, but later my landscapes changed, to get further and further away from his style” (Extract of an interview with Liu Wei recorded in Beijing, February 24, 2004.)

Across the sky and trees the artist executes strokes that are powerfully expressionistic, almost violent, but then wash into painterly drips at the bottom, giving the impression that the frail landscape could peel right off the canvas. Although the work is devoid of human likeness, every inch of the canvas is suffused with our deepest emotions of imagination, desire, and loss—a testimony to the artist’s fantastic allegory of human existence.

Guanghui Chen