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LIU YE (CHINA, B.1964)
LIU YE (CHINA, B.1964)

Reading Girl

LIU YE (CHINA, B.1964)
Reading Girl
signed and dated ‘LY 08’ (lower right)
acrylic on canvas
75 x 60 cm. (29 1/2 x 23 5/8 in.)
Painted in 2008
Sperone Westwater Gallery, New York, USA
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Private Collection, New York, USA
B. Pollack, Sperone Westwater Gallery, Liu Ye: Leave me in the Dark, New York, USA, 2009 (illustrated, cover, pp. 27, 73).
Hatje Cantz Verlag, Liu Ye: Catalogue Raisonné 1991-2015, Ostfildern, Germany, 2015 (illustrated, plate 08-03, pp. 206, 337).
New York, USA, Sperone Westwater Gallery, Liu Ye: Leave Me in the Dark, 7 November – 19 December 2009.

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Jessica Hsu
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Lot Essay

“I believe that a work of art is a combination of two things - between the precision of poetry and the excitement of pure science.”
-Strong Opinions, Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)

The narrative power of Liu Ye's paintings is akin to literature. His meticulous compositions form a maze. Viewers are left with clues to solve the mysterious ending of the story. In Reading Girl (Lot 113), the character is holding a book that covers her face. By appropriating the language of surrealism, the artist is able to express his feelings through an internal monologue. Reminiscent of Rene Magritte's painting style, this work demonstrates the highest order of precision and restraint. Apathetic and even slightly cruel, the painting nonchalantly narrates the story with much gravity. 'By avoiding the awkward treatment of placing visual components side-byside, which is often practiced by Surrealists, he is able to preserve the little dramatic atmosphere that is left in the narrative', "Only One Gram", Zhu Zhu, Henan University Press. By obscuring the girl's face, the viewers have no way to discern the direction of this piece. Liu Yi attempts to guide the viewers to draw from their own experiences, particularly from their school years when they form relationships with images. The placement of the book has multitude of meanings. It chiefly interrupts the exchange of gazes between the viewers and the girl in the painting. It suggests a seemingly close distance that cannot be bridged.

After 2000, Liu Ye painted more young female characters as subjects. Compositions and treatments on the figures have become more simple and clean: soft spotlights are often shone on one or two figures, and their silhouettes are clearly delineated by the contrast. In Reading Girl, dark hues are used in large areas of the background. These unmodulated colours divide the background in thirds, and they precisely convey the texture of the space. Such execution has internalised Mondrian's abstract aesthetic in the LIU YE READING GIRL picture. The reduced rendering of the girl's body and details on her clothing is the artist's way of using his visual language to simplify the composition in order to eliminate any unsettling emotions. Behind this extremely rational painting, the young girl seems to be hidding some Balthus-esque erotic fantasies. Using his idiosyncratic childlike characterisation, a sense of maturity is instilled in the body this conservative and innocent girl. The entire picture is activated by this mixture of eroticism and naïveté.

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