Liu Wei is one of the prominent artists born in China after the 1970s, and is known for his penetrative insights and reflections on contemporary social life, that have gained him international attention. Purple Air Series is a very popular painting series in Liu Wei's oeuvre. The elements of simple and two-dimensional images combined with rich colours, gives viewers a sense of the city's rhythmic beat, orderly and overflowing with vigour. ZJ30033401 Purple Air, was exhibited in Breaking Forecast: Eight Important Images of Chinese Art in the New Century at the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art in 2009. The 4.4 meter-wide composition depicts a river view in the outskirts of Beijing, where the green undergrowth in the foreground contrasts against the red sky and river. Elements from traditional landscape painting, such as light and shadow, tonalities, and perspective, are deconstructed and rearranged into geometric colour blocks, while the idea of time is marked symbolically by a few yellow, white, or light green streaks. The artist opted for a direct delivery of the abstracted imagery, which, by doing so, made other descriptions superfluous.
Just as how the Post-Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne abandoned the literal, narrative quality of classical landscape painting, the function of painting as a means to document reality gradually diminished in importance after the advent of photography, and subjectivity and sensibility became the driving force in the development of art. Liu's Purple Air Series conveys the artist's unique creativity, observations and response to the issues and changes in technology, environment, society, and capitalism of our times. Deeply connected to every facet of Beijing and its spirit, Liu Wei's works paint a kind of abstracted atmosphere of the city, and builds upon the appeal of a knowing insider.
These sentiments are ironically conveyed through the rational and precise mechanical process of digital manipulation of landscape images, creating new entities of fragmented linear arrangements to constitute his composition. This technical process nonetheless requires a deeper knowledge in the relationships between colours and forms which Liu holds from his formal art training, and executes independently in his works. The subsequent colouring of the canvas is completed by a group of assistants under Liu's instruction. His role, in this sense, is more like that of an entrepreneur. He devotes his energy to conceiving the creative concept of his art, and applies a systematic methodology to contemporary art. This approach is unorthodox but it corresponds with the organisational behaviour in an era of capitalism, and brings it face to face with the highly globalized contemporary art world. Confronted by a complex international system involving art museums, exhibitions, art fairs, art galleries, curators, and publishing houses, Liu Wei's efficiency and successful response to reality demonstrates the exceptionably splendid new strength of Chinese contemporary art.