Liu Ye's work combines direct references to the history of art and oblique political connotations to create a charged personal iconography that draws on real and imagined works of art, childhood memories and reallife figures. The often bright colours add a deceptively lighthearted quality. A young boy dressed in a sailor suit, for example, recurred as a poetic stand-in for the artist. Yet, the boy himself combined contradictory attributes: cherub wings found in Western renaissance paintings and, in reference to Chinese politics, tinted spectacles with circular glasses. In particular, the recurring depictions of works in the style of the Dutch abstract painter Piet Mondrian evoke the history of abstraction, a topic Liu Ye has explored since 2007 in his series of Bamboo paintings, among others. These works combine the specific art historical associations with a plant depicted in Chinese ink drawings with compositions reminiscent of Western 20th century abstraction.Read More
Liu Ye grew up during China's Cultural Revolution. He has thematised the subject obliquely with stylistic references that invoke the aesthetics reminiscent of that period's propaganda. At the same time, the cheerful colours and simply characterised figures invoke children's books–a large influence which also has biographical roots, since the artist's father was a graphic artist who illustrated children's books.
His paintings can be in turn playful, erotic and mysterious but all show a deep knowledge of the history of art, both Western and Eastern.
Text courtesy Esther Schipper.
The image of the young artist who destroys his paintings —realizing their lack of originality, or at least the absence of a distinctive voice—is one of the most recognizable romantic tropes, even in mainstream narratives, usually preceding an expressive journey dictated by a more genuine creative compulsion.
Known for his bright-hued paintings of childlike round-faced figures, acclaimed artist Liu Ye's new catalogue raisonné includes 'a number of works that have never been published,' according to its editor Christoph Noe, who is also the founder of The Ministry of Art and Larry's List. Published by Hatje Cantz Verlag, the catalogue raisonné features...
The following is an excerpt of a conversation between Lilly Wei and Liu Ye in his Beijing studio in the summer of 2015.
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