(Born in 1964)
Portrait of Eileen Chang
signed, and dated 'Ye; 04' in Chinese (lower right)
oil on canvas
60.5 x 45 cm. (23 3/4 x 17 3/4 in.)
Painted in 2004
Hebei Education Publishing Co., Liu Ye, Beijing, China, 2006.

Lot Essay

The artist Liu Ye has an unbridled passion for fairy tales and philosophy due to his recognition that they are two opposing poles of human thought. His paintings roam between the two, sometimes swaying to one more than the other. Portraying them in artistic juxtaposition conjures the powerful and beautiful, always enigmatic works that comprise the entirety of Liu's splendid oeuvre.

As a student Liu followed a course of industrial design, a discipline he both loved and loathed for the painstaking attention to detail required. In a discipline he likened as 'strictly controlled passion', such arduous focus upon detail, however inspired him to create methodically flawless works with a deeply emotional core. Liu's earlier work, Melancholy (Self-Portrait) (Lot 806) is an epitome of what soon became the foundation of his rising sophistication in grasping his imaginative control and artistic instinct in a stylish, moreover teasing compositional language. His conscious detail on the study of shape and form is explored with immense curiosity; as he paints a self portrait that profoundly examines the nature of perception that could easily be manipulated by visual organization. Liu glides the viewer's eyes around the edges of the repetitive spherical forms he infuses on to his canvas to direct the viewer to absorb all details of his paintings in smooth unity. The instant lock between Liu and the viewer's eyes are guided in simple instruction, beginning with the curvature tilt of the head which slide along the edges of the round neck of the shirt, landing on the fingers that trickle the eye lower to the canvas, pointing towards the decline of the wine glass, which in it's globular shape, circles the perception towards the final images of a spilled wine. The simplicity in his painting strengthens his artistic intention in releasing his inner blues, allowing the color to speak for the expression itself. The dimmed blue palette of the background seeped through his pale skin, mutes this moment in peculiar silence that exudes a similar enigma of surrealism.

The competition (Lot 804) serves a related enigmatic ambiance as his self portrait but of one that conveys a narrative with its figurative landscape, staging a game of darts, which this performance has soon emerged to become his aesthetic concept as Liu started expressing his penchant towards visual rhetoric, inviting the viewers to the decipher the riddle he created through his paintings. Liu's artistic foundations are derived from his inspiration from art, life, reality and history. The figures stand in Liu's canvas, posture verging on typical figurative sculpture of classical art. The palette diffused with grey, green and yellow exhibit a room that is ambiguous in its utility of as an art room or a game room. With the spectator's realization that the dart is painted on a canvas, supported by an aisle and surrounded by paintings decorated on the wall, the figure on the right surface as model posing for artistic execution. The smaller painting of a naked child becomes the concealed inspiration of the inclusion of this ostensibly absurd placement of the nude model. An artistic manner unique and mysterious as his paintings narratives, Liu cultivated this approach into a more phantasmagorical and heartening pictorial language, inventing his own fairytale that delve into the magical cult of geometry and color to draw out the beauty and joy of everyday episodes.

Synthesizing fantasy and reality, Liu invents a visionary puzzle with his matured intensity of vibrant colors and illumination, a concentration of color awakening to Liu but restless for the audience. Sharply intense to hone a strong sense of realism for his artistic focus and yet nauseating in vividness to hallucinate the perception into dream-like realism, the paradoxical effect his palette has is significantly relative to his context. His whimsical poise bringing joy and austerity emit a different type of intensity from his color palette, an emotional intensity reflective of the artist's attitude towards reality. From the abstracted relationship he commits, Liu seek to linger in the pause between dream and reality, where he locates comfort and peace within the timeless eternity. Like so, Liu painted The Second Story (Lot 805)unveiling his imaginative realm to present poetic motifs of a miniature man standing upside down from a ceiling in front of a window, holding an umbrella, as if in one second of preparation to fly away outside to the bright blue sky. Arousing a disquieting strangeness of its mythical existence, heightened especially with Liu's conscious decision in placing a real man, Liu arranged a picture of hope, where the figure on the left looks at the figure suspended in air, hoping for a magical act that will liberate him from his current circumstance. The window conveys a structural familiarity of Piet Mondrian's work, his favored and constant motif in most of his paintings. Enabling the viewers to gain access to his mystifying state of mind, Liu reappraises his childhood together with his coincidences of the presence to indicate that reality is of past and presence together and the experience between it.

Eileen Chang, considered one of the most notable writer in China has been captured by Liu's benign painterly description in Portrait of Eileen Chang (Lot 803). Posing a certain personal fondness of the writer, Liu extracts the intellectual charisma of the writer in sophisticated minimalism with subtle control of formality. His remarkable insight in composition is found in positioning the protagonist on the lower canvas, engulfed by infinity of the color blue. She stands in tasteful elegance, coming into sight from the centre but slightly inclined towards the left of the canvas. However, this is only of Liu's artistic erudition by his ingenious decision with the cornering eyes and her gracefully elongated neck that both delicately direct towards the left of the canvas. The range of gradation floods the visual stimuli of the viewer with its subtle effects of light and dark, bestowing a metaphysical impression that result in a transcendental experience. The contrast of the cool blue against the white porcelain face of Eileen Chang provide beyond the secular, enchanting her character with enhanced luminescence. Liu's brilliance in visually delivering Chang's literary poeticism is nestled in his theatricality of the color and lighting, but the intellect and personal trajectory of Chang can be traced within the deep gaze and the pursed lips of the protagonist. The command of her facial expression beckons her strong yet kind demeanor, reflective of her writing that rendered her moral integrity and described the aching maturity of human experience. Liu Ye's visage can be outlined on the face of Eileen Chang, perhaps as an act of admiration, visually appropriating an idiom 'Imitation is the highest form of flattery.' He shared the same values as this prominent writer as he believed 'basic human sentiments such as humanitarianism, beauty, kindness and sadness are far more touching and important to me than any political concepts.' Liu's message may simply be that the languid aspects of life may be dramatically brightened by the advent of art, literature and a touch of imagination; a lucid message, but also a simple truth also presented in simplicity and honesty through his childhood recollection and absurdly rich compositions and autonomous pictorial use of color.


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