• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2605

    Asian Contemporary Art (Day Sale)

    25 May 2008, Hong Kong

  • Lot 655

    Liu Wei

    Price Realised  


    Liu Wei
    (Born in 1965)
    signed and dated 'Liu Wei; 2006' in Chinese & Pinyin (center)
    oil on canvas
    200.5 x 150 cm. (79 x 59 in.)
    Painted in 2006

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766

    Evolving from his deliberately shocking and derelict depictions of his "revolutionary family", Cynical Realist painter Liu Wei evolved into an increasingly expressionistic painter fixated on the underlying tensions, psychological and bodily urges of every day life. For Liu, every brushstroke relates to an ephemeral spiritual and material reality, fraught with impulses and experiences both high and low. Liu's favorite images - dogs, children, landscapes, and businessmen - speak to a bucolic, bourgeois lifestyle, one that is ironically undermined by the artist's technique. The artist renders these subjects in a festering and sometimes intentionally grotesque manner. For him, the surface of existence is undermined by gluttonous and erotic urges. Liu often scribbles plaintive expressions in English across the surface of his paintings that are almost Freudian in their simple desires: "I like you", "I like pork", or "I like smoking". In this manner, Liu effectively embraces his own loss of idealism by bringing to the surface the repressed realities that lie immediately beneath the skin of bodily experience.

    In the unusually large Untitled (Lot 655) featured here, Liu offers us a lush but somewhat lonely vision into nature. The composition is carefully balanced by Liu's delicate sense of color and the variety of his technique. The painting is built up through a combination of washes and the subtle impasto of Liu's relatively restrained brushwork. No human figure is present, lending the work a somber tone. The work nonetheless bristles with very human emotions. Drawing the viewer into the painting like a path to the horizon is one of the Liu's trademark "carnal flows", a swath of fleshy pink and red texture resembling freshly ground meat. Even a superficially bucolic landscape setting is ripe with mortal tension and unrepentant desires, as though the material world itself is contagious, and contact with it inevitably unleashes crude realities of bodily existence. The loss of idealism felt by Liu and his generation compelled them to explore anti-heroic and sometimes confrontational themes, dislodging the purpose of art from high-minded and heavy-handed themes and subjects, and instead exploring a much more personal and unconventional art practice. Liu has stated that "painting helps to relieve my own sense of helplessness and awkwardness". This image then is an abstracted "nature" - not a specific place but a vision into Liu's own worldview. For Liu, the exquisiteness of "beauty" cannot exist without the crude and grotesque, and it is in his on-going investigation into these oppositional urges that Liu explores and reveals the crass, poignant and hilarious nature of existence itself.