Liu Wei is another member of China's so-called "Cynical Realists", painters who emerged from the malaise of the 1990s as some of China's most insightful and intuitive social observers. Drawing from their heavily disciplined academic training, these artists applied their vast technical skills not to the depiction of grand historical or didactic themes, but to the more ephemeral and experiential aspects of contemporary life. Their approach to depicting these taken-for-granted subjects life contributed to one of the most radical breaks with tradition in Chinese art history.
Like many of his contemporaries, Liu Wei was driven by the loss idealism felt in post-1989 China, and gravitated towards the expression of the underlying tensions and psychological experiences of his generation. Liu Wei in particular quickly moved away from a strictly realist tradition and developed a more expressionistic style. For Liu, every brushstroke contributes to a state of spiritual and material decomposition. Liu's staple images - dogs, children, flowers, and businessmen - speak to a bucolic, bourgeois lifestyle, one that is ironically undermined by the artist's technique. Existence itself is festering, grotesque, and full of gluttinous, unseemly urges. He often scribbles plaintive expressions in English across the surface of his paintings that are almost Freudian in their simple desires: "I like you", "I like pork", or "I like smoking". Liu in effect embraces his own loss of idealism by bringing to the surface the repressed realities that lie immediately beneath the skin of bodily experience.