LIANG YUANWEI (B. 1977)
PROPERTY FROM AN IMPORTANT ASIAN PRIVATE COLLECTION
LIANG YUANWEI (B. 1977)

Untitled 2013.17

Details
LIANG YUANWEI (B. 1977)
Untitled 2013.17
oil on canvas
250 x 200 cm. (98 3/8 x 78 6/8 in.)
Painted in 2013
Provenance
Pace Gallery, London, UK
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Exhibited
London, UK, Pace Gallery, The Tension between a Bow and an Elephant, March – April 2014.

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Kimmy Lau

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Lot Essay

“I SEE MY PAINTING AS A RECORD OF MY ACTIVITY. EVERY PAINTING WAS STARTED FROM THE TOP AND DRAWN TO THE BOTTOM, WHICH MEANS WHEN I WAS PAINTING ON THE TOP PART, THE REST OF THE CANVAS WAS STILL EMPTY. ONLY AFTER I FINISHED THE WHOLE PAINTING, I COULD FINALLY SEE THE COMPLETE PICTURE OF IT.”

Liang Yuanwei is known for recreating the delicate designs of household fabric onto canvas, employing subtle tonal shifts to give the painting a shimmering finish akin to that of hand-woven brocade. Her artistic practice possesses a dual character: on the one hand, it directly translates the concept of material experience into the language of painting; on the other, it makes the process of execution thecentre of the creative act, where such a structurally intricate artwork can only be realised with prolonged stillness and focus from within the artist. The viewer can sense the creator’s emotional state in the imagery and during the creative process, one that skirts between attachment and a desire to break away. As the viewer looks at the work from varying distances, one sees the pure traces of brushwork waning in intensity in between elegant and familiar floral patterns, as if the artist was interrogating time while also being tortured by it.
In order to emphasise the process of painting, Liang works from top to bottom on the canvas and constructs the painting section by section. Each section must be finished before the background paint has dried, and there is no room for error throughout the time-consuming process. As she said, “I see my painting as a record of my activity. Every painting was started from the top and drawn to the bottom, which means when I was painting on the top part, the rest of the canvas was still empty. Only after I finished the whole painting, I could finally see the complete picture of it.” Liang’s process-based approach is often likened to fresco painting. The ancient technique required prior, meticulous planning and extremely precise execution, since no alteration might be made once the pigment had dried. However, the coincidence is only superficial. Fresco painting emphasises the outline of the imagery, and the decorative and stylistic aspect. Liang’s work features an intense expression of brushwork and oil paint texture; it depicts the artist’s imagination and her quest for the unknown, and it bears stronger echoes of Van Gogh’s distinctive interpretation of Japanese ukiyo-e.
In Untitled 2013.17, the simulated texture of delicately woven fabric and the interwoven petals are instilled with the gesture of life and the force of nature. In between the resplendent visual variations with dark overtones, one can see the artist’s restraint in her expression of the theme, one that is focused on the graphic and the essential.
The floral patterns often seen on fabric are derived from the natural world, and they are a representation of feminine beauty. Yet they have vastly departed from their raw and original state, and are tied to a seemingly mechanical manufacturing process in a contradictory and inseparable relationship. What is also apparent in this painting, however, is the artist’s gradual discovery of a certain kind of balance. Untitled 2013.17 is one of the works exhibited in the “The Tension between a Bow and an Elephant” at London’s Pace Gallery in 2014. The exhibition title came from a dream that Liang had during the time when she was working on this series of paintings. It symbolises the inner tension she must sustain during the creative process, since it is the grounding force of her existence. Compared to her earlier works, one can see in this painting Liang’s shift towards the use of gentler, more subdued colours as inspired by Song dynasty paintings. The colours better encapsulate the refinement through time that transpires between imagination and completion, and between observation and comprehension. The shift not only reflects the building up of the painting process and the deepening of a formal language; it also reveals the artist’s gaze upon herself, one that embodies her reflection on nature and her calm faith in life.

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