LIU YE (B. 1964)
LIU YE (B. 1964)
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Where Christie’s has provided a Minimum Price Guar… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE EUROPEAN COLLECTION
LIU YE (B. 1964)


LIU YE (B. 1964)
dated and signed ‘07 YE’ and signed in Chinese (lower right)
acrylic on canvas
120 x 90 cm. (47 1/4 x 35 1/2 in.)
Painted in 2007
Galerie Johnen + Schöttle, Cologne, Germany
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2008
Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, China: Facing Reality, exh. cat., Vienna, Austria, 2007 (illustrated,p. 80).
National Art Museum of China, China: Facing Reality, exh. cat., Beijing, China, 2007 (illustrated, p. 131).
Sperone Westwater Gallery, Liu Ye: Leave Me in the Dark, exh. cat., New York, USA, 2009 (illustrated, p. 23).
He Cai, Contemporary Art, Bamboo Boogie Woogie, September 2012, (illustrated, p. 30, 35).
Juvan, Art Semimonthly: Chinese Art Today, Liu Ye: Contradiction and the Unknowable Old Boy, 15 December 2012, (illustrated, p. 62).
Gérard Goodrow, DAAB Publishing, Crossing China: Land of the Rising Art Scene, Cologne, Germany, 2014 (illustrated, p. 47).
Christoph Noe (ed.), Hatje Cantz, Liu Ye: Catalogue Raisonne: 1991-2015, Ostfildern, Germany, 2015 (illustrated, plate 07-05, p. 199, 333).
Vienna, Austria, Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, China: Facing Reality, Oct 2007 – Feb 2008.
Cologne, Germany, Galerie Johnen + Schöttle, Infatuation, 2007.
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Jacky Ho (何善衡)
Jacky Ho (何善衡) Head of Evening Sale

Lot Essay

“Art has seduced me. At the same time, I have used art as a tool of seduction.”
Liu Ye

The 2000s marked a turning point in Liu Ye’s artistic output— he began on an informal series of paintings featuring nymphlike girls and women, often in provocative poses and various stages of undress. The artist once said 'Art has seduced me. At the same time, I have used art as a tool of seduction.' Over the next decade, Liu Ye painted many of these works, often featuring doll-esque figures that are more adult than the little girls that appear in his earlier works. The current figure in Bird have curvy torso and long limbs, her delicate hands grasping onto her intimate lingerie, exuding an air of subtleness. This also appears to be the last painting that Liu Ye depicts a full size provocative female painting before he ventured on to explore different subjects, making this an extremely rare piece to come by in the market.

In Bird , created between 2006-2007, Liu Ye positioned a woman floating weightlessly in a deep-brownish empty space. Her body radiates with a translucent and porcelain-like texture. Liu creates a sense of ambiguity about the persona's age through juxtaposing conflicting visual signifiers, such as the innocent face, exposed fetishized body in lingerie and alluring makeups. The head proportion is distortedly exaggerated and brings a child-like quality to the figure; while at the same time, the peachy lips, rosy cheeks and model-like long limbs and curvy figure are all cues that suggest she has reached a certain age of maturity. The downcast eyes with her slender arms in a self-hugging position eludes the strong desire to be comforted and loved. The colour of the Earth— brown is applied throughout the background of the painting. Full of fertility; it emanates a comforting and nurturing ground for the floating nymphet. This also resembles the old masters painter Johannes Vermeer’s use of brown to plan out his composition to captivate light, colour and texture. Liu Ye evokes a surrealist, theatrical sensibility amongst the lulling enactment of this young girl’s monologue in an unknown space, up to the viewer’s interpretation. As Liu Ye himself states, “Actually, there’s a tension in my paintings between the desire to be abstract and the need to borrow from the concrete to convey meaning.”

The mixing of adult and childlike themes is trademark of Liu Ye’s work, and displays the artist’s interest in exploring challenging, contradictory subjects. Liu Ye’s father was a literature writer of children’s books. From an early age, Liu Ye was exposed to Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, and classic stories such as Cinderella and Thumbelina. As LiuYe’s himself recalls, “It was politically dangerous to read such books in those days. However, these fantastic stories with their beautiful illustrations opened up a new and wonderful world to me.” Yet the darkness of these classic stories also made an impact on the artist – as he addresses adult themes such as sex, death and violence.

Liu Ye’s repeated female figures also identifies with the great modern artist, Balthus. This current painting is comparable to Balthus’s erotic portrayal of nudes; however, in a more subtle manner. The lengthening of the body and the legs have given rise to a new aesthetic canon; alluding a darker sexual truth behind the nymphet’s youthful facades. The use of alluring sexual imageries could be explorations of his subconscious; breaking the boundaries of the “prohibited” fantasies. As Zhu Zhu once wrote, “Seen as a metaphor of external reality, we can say that it points to a growth environment in which desire and reverie are suppressed. Understood from a different angle, we can regard it as a dramatic expression of one man’s inner conflicts.” Yet the slightly surreal mixing of innocence and adulthood in Liu Ye’s work may also be seen as another expression of visual ambiguity, defying analysis and interpretation.

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