1654 | LIU YE Painted in 2007 PORTRAIT OF M


Author: LIU YE 刘野

Size: 60×45cm

Signed and dated: Painted in 2007


Final Price: RMB 7,300,000

2008 Not Exactly Fairy-Tale / P20 / BQ Weekly 3e
2013 The Revival of Tradition: Chinese Contemporary Art Exhibition / P91 / Mebo Culture
2015 Liu Ye: Catalogue Raisonne 1991-2015 / P334 / HATJE CANTZ
signed in Chinese & pinyin and dated 2007
2008 Martell Artists of the Year, Today Art Museum, Beijing
2008 Martell Artists of the Year, Shanghai Art Museum, Shanghai
2008 Martell Artists of the Year, Guangdong Museum of Art , Guangzhou
2013 The Revival of Tradition : Chinese Contemporary Art Exhibition, Tuyap Fair Convention and Congress Center, Turkey

“An important function of artistic creation is to excavate one’s own emotions and conduct a sense of mystery.” As an acclaimed contemporary artist, Liu Ye has always believed that art is not only a tool for critique; in his opinion, art is the key to explore human emotions, able to transcend politics and national boundaries. Initially, Liu engaged in artistic creation in order to forget the troubles of life, and then, the constant exploration of his own emotions became his inspiration. He later started to incorporate his own diversified thoughts into his art, thus deepening its meaning.
As a child, Liu Ye regarded drawing as one of his greatest pleasures. When applying for high school, due to his love for painting, he decided to choose industrial design as his major. This decision laid the foundation for his future artistic creation. He was accepted to the Central Academy of Fine Arts in 1986, and during his third year, he studied in the Berlin Art Institute in Germany. At that time, the traditional Chinese thinking he was accustomed to began to collide with Western culture, Liu started to construct a unique understanding of both the East and the West; he would gradually grasp the essence of the classic and delicate paintings of the Song and Yuan dynasties as well as the seriousness and openness of German culture.
During his studies in Germany, the artist that had the biggest impact on Liu was undoubtedly Mondrian. As one of the representatives of German expressionism, his works were often filled with a serious sense of order and inexplicable air of religiosity: the straight lines and simple figures never failed to invoke viewers’ most intuitive feelings. Liu Ye was surprised to find that in contemporary art, simple flat graphics could transcend painting the specific details of different things; it allows viewers to generate various ideas by themselves and engage in a dialogue with the works. By studying Mondrian’s works, Liu found out that both in case of abstract and figurative painting, all images were composed of abstract shapes, the basic structure and spirit the same. What Mondrian did was to pursue the ultimate sense of order through art,and Liu also formed a hope to express his own understanding of the world through art.
Since 1994, Liu’s trademark cartoon-like images of children with round faces have brought a fresh style to the contemporary art world. Interestingly, these seemingly simple and childlike works cannot just be interpreted as an expression of one’s longing for childhood and the pursuit of innocence. Liu shows that generally everyone misses the simplicity of childhood; at the same time, he creates a childish world that surpasses reality, presenting adults with fairy-tale imagery. In many works, Liu constantly depicts his childhood memories of music groups, sailors, etc. in a fairy-tale style. In the meantime, under the serenity and softness of his pictures, he hides his melancholy temperament. In his later works, Liu began to combine childlike form with female characters, and the proportion of cute girls and women gradually increased. Most of them have round faces, big heads, and thin limbs, innocent yet filled with sorrow. Showing sadness in seemingly happy images is perhaps more tempting than directly expressing sadness in and of itself. This indirect and roundabout way makes it easier for Liu’s works to touch the viewer’s emotions and to leave an endless aftertaste.
Reflection upon fate is also a profound theme in Liu’s pieces. Since 2002, he has created a series of portraits featuring famous Chinese women he admired, including Ruan Lingyu (Lily Yuen), Teresa Teng, and Eileen Chang. Liu once said, “Who can fully grasp their own destiny? Even Lily Yuen, Teresa Teng, and Eileen Chang cannot.” His Lily Yuen, Eileen Chang, and Zhou Xuan series as well as other works were all created in his signature fairy-tale style, yet behind the innocence and childish aesthetics, the works reveal the fact that even beautiful and talented women like Lily Yuen and Eileen Chang and even world-famous singers like Zhou Xuan can control little of their own destinies.
Interestingly, Maggie Cheung has also become an object for Liu Ye’s creation. As a representative of contemporary women, Maggie Cheung has performed Lily Yuen and other typical, gentle Chinese women in movies. At the same time, she also wanted to grasp her own destiny and live in her own way. In Portrait of M, Liu presents Maggie in the form of a photo portrait, once again with a fairy-tale style. The artist painted an unblemished teal background using extremely delicate brushstrokes. The foreground is a bust of a woman with a childlike (or even baby) face, a high forehead, curly hair, beautiful features, and cherry-like lips. The contrast between light and dark, the woman’s delicate skin, the quiet atmosphere, and the profound connotations are all reminiscent of Vermeer’s works. Maggie Cheung looks sad and firm as well as mature and childlike. These contradictions give this piece a deeper philosophical significance.
Liu hopes he will not be considered as an artist of a single style. His fairy-tale images are not only about sunshine and rainbows, but also the persistent exploration into and understanding of himself.