In the multidisciplinary works of Liu Wei, dog toys, books and industrial doors are just a few of his inspirations. His refusal to commit to a specific medium has led him to work in a range of media, including painting, sculpture, photography, performance, video and installation. Through his inventive repurposing of everyday objects, Liu distorts our perception of the environment in an attempt to illustrate the impact of urbanisation on modern cities.
Coming of age in the 1990s—a time of rapid urbanisation and ideological instability in China—the transformative power of modernisation has been a long-term interest of Liu's. Rather than focusing on Chinese culture and contemporary life, however, Liu's works often address the effect of urbanisation on a universal level, incorporating objects common to various modern cities. Exotic Lands No. 21 (2013), for example, is comprised of industrial doors and highlights their commercial elements. The abstract, geometric forms in Look! Books (2014) are made of books, while he famously used dog chew toys to construct buildings in Super Structure (2005–2007) and Love It! Bite It! (2005).
Liu's concern with the manipulation of the perception of an environment is especially apparent in Enigma and Puzzle, both completed in 2014. Enigma, shown at his mid-career survey at the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing (2015), features resin blocks that obstructed the survey entrance. Compelling the viewer to negotiate their way into the main floor of the exhibition, the monumental blocks metaphorically represented the Eastern region's ever-growing cities. In Puzzle, mirrors of various sizes and irregular geometric shapes overlap one another. Positioned at various angles, the mirrors offer fractured views of the viewer and the gallery architecture. By disturbing an encompassing view of the gallery, Liu suggested that an all-encompassing view of this world is similarly an illusion.
In a conversation with Ocula Magazine in 2015, when asked if titles such as 'Puzzle' and 'Enigma' evaded the viewer's comprehension, Liu explained that the titles were directed at the artist himself, noting, 'It is not that I am not interested in discussions or revealing meanings, it is just that I am with the viewers, in the quest for meaning'. This statement correlates with his non-partisan attitude toward his works; the works state current conditions of the world but do not return a verdict. For Liu, art functions to generate discussions, wherein both the artist and the viewer may freely shape their own understandings of the world.
Since graduating from the National Academy of Fine Arts, Hangzhou, in 1996, Liu has exhibited internationally in China, Qatar, South Korea, Europe and the USA. He is familiar with international biennials, having exhibited in Shanghai Biennale (2016, 2010, 2004), La Biennale de Lyon (2015, 2007), Gwangju Biennale (2010), Guangzhou Triennial (2012, 2008, 2005, 2002), and Venice Biennale (2005). In 2015, he also co-curated Nocturnal Friendships for Lehmann Maupin Hong Kong, which featured the works of seven young Chinese artists. Liu currently lives and works in Beijing.