Starting in 2006, Liu Wei began working on his Purple Air Series, with its strong tenor of urban living. Using digitised contours, abstract and geometric structures, plus rich, avant-garde colours, Liu Wei has created a concrete jungle that is aesthetically urban.
The artist drew from his experience growing up as inspiration for this series. He carefully selected from memory various snapshots of Beijing, and created an authentic metropolitan world in abstraction. Surreal hues generated by juxtaposed colours of digital images delineate the dazzling fluorescent lights of a modern city, thereby creating an image of a post-industrial experience. Liu Wei's exploration of light and spatial depth is reminiscent of Minimalist artist Dan Flavin, whose utilisation of fluorescent light in his artis no less brilliant. Not only is the composition endowed with a three-dimensional depth, it demonstrates the versatile sophistication of Liu Wei's dexterity in multimedia, ranging from painting, photography, sculpture, and art installation.
A slightly skewed angle encourages the viewer to reflect on the almost symmetrical upper and lower sections of the composition: it also conveys the hasty pace of urban life. The delineation of surreal hues brings forth the vibrant flow of a digitalised visual imaging that underpins the vitality of the city. Tree branches limned in bold and powerful strokes create an atmosphere resembling the bleak and cold mood that permeates, Autumn Willow and Double Crows, a painting by the Southern Song master of Zen Art, Liang Kai; an instance where, though both used a different approach, the results were equally pleasing. Trees, a recurrent image in traditional ink painting, are freighted with a symbolic meaning that faithfully reflects the relation between Man and Nature, and the cultural background of a society. The bare tree branches portrayed in Purple Air I No. 10, though minimal, are richly expressive. Not only do they project a sense of desolation, they also reflect how, amidst the cold and loneliness of a post-industrial city, present-day urban residents maintain their equanimity as they struggle against the bustle and clamour of city life.