Details
LIU KUO-SUNG
(LIU GUOSONG, Chinese, B. 1932)
Trees in Clouds and Rain
signed and dated in Chinese (upper left)
ink and colour on paper
91.5 184.8 cm. (36 x 72 3/4 in.)
Painted in 1967
Provenance
Private Collection, Asia
Literature
Cultural Affairs Bureau Taoyuan County Government, The Universe in the Mind : A Retrospective of Liu Kuo-Sung, Taoyuan, Taiwan, 2007 (illustrated, pp. 48-49).
Exhibited
Taoyuan, Taiwan, Cultural Affairs Bureau Taoyuan County Government, The Universe in the Mind: A Retrospective of Liu Kuo-Sung, 2007.

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Lot Essay

Dissatisfied by the conservatism of traditional Chinese painting, Liu Kuo-Sung established the "May Painting Club" in Taiwan in 1956. Liu and his colleagues pursued new creative objectives and sought inspiration from Western abstraction; a genre that caught on heavily after World War II. Bravely applying his findings from the Western trends to his own works, Liu's breakthrough was a seminal point in the transformation of contemporary Chinese art. He continuously applied his artistic energy to transcend the limits of the contemporary arts and assiduously built new concepts upon the foundations of tradition.

In 1961, Liu came across a statement by Architect Wang Da Hong, "Every type of material should appeal to its own characteristics and showcase it to the full, rather than being replaced by alternative materials." Wang's thinking brought new inspiration to Liu, who abandoned the canvas, a material he had skillfully mastered, and moved toward the ink and paper of traditional Chinese painting. Although in form and composition his work still possessed influences from Western abstraction, his craft was nonetheless similar to the works of Lin Fengmian, Xu Beihong and Liu Haisu. Liu believed that lines and textures created by the paintbrush were limited in effect. Thus, he began exploring the use of various materials and techniques in his artistic production, from rubbings to ripping, water immersion and other special effects. This experimentation of technique can be seen in Trees in Clouds and Rain (Lot 190). Liu never abandoned calligraphic rendering, but extended its form into a deeper aesthetic field, pursuing the rhythm and vigor of the pen, integrating the intention of the pen into the representation of water and ink paintings.

Liu's travels in 1967 to Europe and America had a powerful influence over the transformations in his artistic practice. In and Out Window No. 9 (Lot 189) showcases this development through a continued reinterpretation of the Chinese spirit. The painting portrays a painted abstract landscape in the lower half with another painting collaged above, floating in space. The simultaneous images allude to the idea of two different perspectives of the same subject, creating a spatial ambiguity that suspends the viewer between reality and representation. This effect has been likened to surrealist artist Ren? Magritte's treatment of the subject of the painting within a painting.

Inspired by the landing of the first man on the moon in 1969, Liu shifted his theme from nature to the universe and beyond, resulting in the awe-inspiring "cosmos series". Which is Earth No. 32 (Lot 188) depicts precisely delineated geometric shapes within a vertical composition, echoing influences of American hardedge painting. A blue arcing form seems to create a halo of light, evoking a feeling of infinite space. By applying softness and beauty layer by layer, Liu integrates pure geometric form with the delicacy of the calligraphic brush, seeking to integrate the aesthetics of Chinese calligraphy with Western compositional conventions. In Rising Moon (Lot 191) the moon takes on a more reduced, abstracted form. Layering shapes in increasing opacity, Liu creates the effect of a moon rising above the earth. Rich in philosophical meaning, this work makes its viewer aware of time and universal cyclicity on a grander scale. Liu's works evoke strong emotions, connecting the myths of the universe, humankind and the earth and exhibiting the splendors of infinity in perfect symmetry. A pioneer of modern Chinese painting, Liu has influenced generations of painters to continue to strive for modernity without forgetting or forgoing the true spirit of traditional Chinese painting.
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