The painting by the De Stijl artist, Piet Mondrian, has almost become an iconic motif recurring in Liu Ye's work throughout the years. Not only is this an homage he pays repeatedly to the abstract master, but also an indication of Liu's great passion for abstract art. Deeply fascinated by the purity of colours and geometric forms in Mondrian's abstraction, Liu Ye however never really turns away from figurative painting. Besides Mondrian, Qi Baishi's achievements in Chinese classical painting also have equal importance to inspire Liu. Qi's technique and concept of 'empty space' and his personal fondness of mundane objects are rather apparent in Liu's work. Both influences from Mondrian and Qi are evident in Liu's composition and conceptually, rather than direct borrowing.
Since the late 90s, Liu Ye intends to simplify his composition with large colour blocks. In Scale (Lot 1417), created in 1995, Liu sharply divides the vertical canvas horizontally into two rectangles. In the upper part, he depicts two leafy, green shades of trees scattered between two blocks of geometrically shaped architecture in greyish white, whereas the lower contains an empty, white surface on which a green pencil, a transparent ruler, and also an illustrated book with "Piet Mondrian: Red, Yellow, Blue" written on the cover are randomly placed. This layout is carefully planned by Liu Ye through rational thinking. The overall composition reveals a restrained and uncomplicated sensibility. Through simple and precise geometric dissections as well as highly controlled lines and brushstrokes, a surrealist scene and a sense of frozen time are thence constituted. Here we can see Mondrian-isque calmness and rationality, and also an enigmatic aura of solitude and beauty in tranquillity. Liu Ye artfully enriches the layers in this work with both rationality and sensitivity. 'Fairy tale' is also a significant element in Liu Ye's work. The world of fairy tales is fundamentally constructed upon fictions and imagination. In this fictional world, Liu oftentimes disguises himself under the cover of different fairy-tale characters, essentially portraying no one else but in fact the various sides of himself. However in this painting he chooses to leave out the protagonist, and directly invites the audience to get inside him and witness the wonderland of fantasy through the artist's very own eyes. This surrealistic world depicted in Scale is more of a dreamlike mindscape from the subconscious, than merely a simple reproduction from experiences and memories in real life.
In Night (Lot 1416), 2005, Liu Ye positioned a nearly bare female floating weightlessly in a deep-blue void-an allegorized starless night sky. Her body radiates with a translucent, porcelain-like texture. The head proportion is distortedly exaggerated and brings a child-like quality to the figure; while at the same time, in contrast to the blood-rouged lips and cheeks, Liu creates a sense of ambiguity about the persona's age through juxtaposing conflicting visual signifiers, such as the innocent face, exposed fetishized body and alluring makeups. Through the Vermeerlike captivating use of light, color and texture, Liu Ye evokes a surrealist, theatrical sensibility amongst the lulling enactment of the girl's monologue under the moonshine spotlight in the night sky.