Born in 1964 and raised in an intellectual family, Liu Ye encountered classical art at an early age. He received basic education in design and art while beginning his contemplation of the constitutive elements of painting through the works of Wassily Kandinsky and Piet Mondrian. After his graduation from the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Liu continued his studies at Universität der Künste Berlin in Germany where he studied the classical European masters, especially paintings by Johannes Vermeer. This experience allowed him to comprehend absolute beauty that became a lifelong pursuit of the artist.
Angels' House is a work produced in 1996, after the artist returned to China in the mid-1990s. The painting is of great significance because it marks the artist's most mature style. The artist focuses his attention on the investigation of human figures, building narratives on a dreamy stage through realistic visual forms. The painting's compositions, which stages two parents and a pair of children, recalls the generic family photos of a particular era, and indeed the artist's own household. By manipulating geometrical forms, layered shading, and balanced composition; the artist recalls the spatial sense of classical religious painting in the West, for instance Virgin of the Rocks by Leonardo da Vinci. With a visual effect similar to theatrical lighting, the circular arc of light on the curtains in the painting constructs a sublime and religious effect similar to that of the icon. Furthermore the placement of the figures beneath are presented in a triangular composition, accentuating the sense of domestic tranquility and stability.
To Liu Ye, art is the record of its times, and portraiture is a prism of reality. In the disguise of rationality and order, Liu Ye's work actualises his concern with reality in a humorous narrative. Curtains and attire of rich colours, cheeks in China red, bodily gestures frozen in time, and theatrical rituals of solemnity aggrandise the extreme dramatisation of the paintings. The marks of a certain historical period in the figures' hands and their lifelike white wings - as if they might soar to great heights - add a sense of absurdity that transcends reality. The artist purposely employs a small canvas, to resonate with the quanjiafu or family portrait that begets an intimacy with the viewer; more importantly, the artist makes an aesthetic relation to the Northern Renaissance and Dutch miniature paintings in the flow of art history.
'To me (politics) is not of the utmost importance; my interest resides in painterly language and art per se.' The artist is in search of the beauty in Mondrian's art-one of purity, placidity, and precision. Perhaps this is precisely the sentiment that so many viewers yearn for but find nowhere.
"For me, the best time is the past I shared with my family-my parents and my sister. It was warm. I am somewhat afraid of growing up and entering adulthood."
- Liu Ye