LIU WEI (Chinese, B. 1972)
LIU WEI (Chinese, B. 1972)


LIU WEI (Chinese, B. 1972)
signed in Chinese; signed 'Liu Wei' in Pinyin; dated '2010' (on the reverse)
oil on canvas
221 x 221 cm. (87 x 87 in.)
Painted in 2010
Art Issue Projects, Beijing, China
Acquired from the above by the present owner

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Eric Chang
Eric Chang

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Lot Essay

"The organic blending of different materials subjected to authentic sensation, this truth didn't derive from any delineation of reality."
- Liu Wei

Born in 1972, Liu Wei belongs to a generation of artists who have come of age in this era of avant-garde. He is one of the key members of the late 1990s Post-Sense Sensibility group, which fought against "conceptual art" itself. His works can be characterised by a post-Duchampian whim allied with an expanded vision of modernism, adopting a more flexible approach premised upon modifying and recombining ready-mades of both Chinese and Western origin. He layers conceptual approach that transcends medium to present his own concept of seeing, sensitivity and enlightenment about contemporary Chinese society. Art historian Catherine David commented that his works deceive fetishism; theoricians Gao Shiming saw in his works the problematics of equality.

Liu Wei works with a deep nous of experimentation in a variety of media, including photography, painting, sculpture, and installation. His works have included his Love it, Bite it series of model cityscapes assembled from dog chews, as a quintessence of the delicacy of prevailing ideology and political power, and the continuous dialog between nature and civilization. He conceived archaeological discoveries in a m?l?e against forgetting, or assembling palaces out of old doors and windows. His Purple Air oil paintings of stylised skyscraper cityscapes; his Landscape Series of landscapes made from photographic composited of human buttocks with a mindful tribute to John Coplans; and Indigestion II, a two-metre model turd.

Purple Air series started in 2006, in N5-1(Lot 36), abstracted patterns of upward-reaching vertical lines blanket the canvas in a gauzelike grid that is at once engulfing and enthralling, and the painting's obscurity of detail summons us closer. The rising and falling in rhythmic lines create the impression of three dimension buildings lingering in calming air. "The painted canvases seemed so beautiful, so unlike life, so I called this series 'Purple Air.' In the Chinese classics, this idea of purple air also refers to a state of haze, a lack of clarity, but actually full of vitality. There are so many problems, but it is still lovely." Liu Wei first used computer software to generate patterns and pixels and then applied to canvas and fill in the colour. His exploration of the modern landscape is reminiscent of Vorticism painter Edward Wadsworth (Fig. 1), who combined Italian Futurists and French Cubists. Modern world and high buildings are illustrated using violent rhetoric- harsh colours, sharp angles, and shifting diagonals to suggest the geometry of modern buildings and the acrimonious energy of the city.

Purple Air series questions our ways of seeing. He sets up an analogy between what is visible in the physical sense, and in the social sense. "Cities are reality; all of China is a city under construction, and of course this influences me. You cannot ignore that; you can only ask why it is so. In the end, there are reasons for everything. All of this is about the system, in the end." This recurrent geometric diagram syndicates a logical, systematic approach with ingenious intemperance.
Liu Wei conjures his own reality in N5-1. As he reveals "the real does not come from verisimilitude, but comes from perceptual and spiritual truthfulness. Abstraction processes this perception with reduction, and what is left is the essence of the works." French philosopher Alain Badiou puts "art is itself a producer of truths", a Truth-Event opposes the metaphysical concept of Being and its desire for presence and unified identity, since it is irreducible to its causes and conditions. Truth is what within time exceeds time. Art is society's social antithesis: "Insofar as a social function can be predicated for artworks, it is their functionlessness". Truth content is the way in which an artwork concurrently challenges the way things are and suggests how things could be better, but leaves things essentially unchanged: Art has truth as the fa?ade of the illusionless.

With N5-1 generated by a computer-a device that dominates our current world, the visual effect of this work is redolent of I Ching. Divination called cleromancy is turned into hexagrams, which have assimilated cosmological implication. I Ching was read as a microcosm of the universe that offered compound and emblematic correspondences. "I'll turn its sort of randomness into my own randomness." the artist revealed. In this way, the patterns of Liu Wei's art also represent the artist's destruction of self in favour of universal wholeness, and psychosomatic peace. It suggests a life of random choices, each taken at the moment's whim, without any deliberation and justification, is conceivable. Uncertainty is the only certainty. It counterfeits a subjective sense of order and meaning out of strictly controlled social and political structures and the tempestuous chaos of the contemporary cityscape.

The circle in the centre reminds viewers of the sun or the moon, as well as the significant symbol signifying astronomical objects in Liu Kuo-Song's Space series (Fig. 2) that explores the mysteries of the universe. As such, Liu Kuo-Song breaks through from traditional Chinese paintings by seeking a new worldview from self to the vastness of the universe. Liu Wei, from the Cainozoic perspective, constructs his own world through the digital virtual visual experience. Being the only organic element in the midst of digitally generated world, the circle here has transcended its mere symbolic meaning, signifying Eastern philosophy of infinity- organically changing and building. Liu Wei generates his virtual urban landscape from digital images, the prevalent organic symbol, however, seems to reiterate the fact that humans do not rule the world. The mysterious universe reveals humans' limited knowledge towards "existence", and curiosity of the unknown pushes constant improvement.

Art's great advantage over history in the economy of our ethical life is that it allows us to go beyond the actual, to make imaginative experiments, and thus to broaden immeasurably our repertory of mediated experience. Liu Wei's art serves not only to invent substitutions to, but also to illuminate, the actual world. He extracts the verse from mere fashion, the eternal from the transient.

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