A Standpoint Without Position
I met Liu Xiaodong in 1992.At the time he was on a traveling wedding weth his wife Yuhong and lived in New York City¡¯s Lower Eastside. At Chen Dangqing¡¯s office on 42nd Street, Xiaodong just completed his oil painting titled ¡°American Experience¡±. The painting¡¯s rhathymia gave me a deep impression. Later, his retrospective exhibition gave me an opportunity to see more of his work.
Liu Xiaodong¡¯s painting are rooted in the profound traditions of western painting: a tradition that has been civilization¡¯s approach to deciphering our world and history, as well as the structure for the declaration and memory of the spiritual world. Due to the backward traditional culture and the systemic, political attitude of art ideology, the past century of Chinese oil paintings never debouched from institutionalized infantility nor the muck of literary falsehood and unctions. In the endless art consciousness and conformation as well as in modern practical aesthetics, works of realism that narrates, magnifies and metamorphosizes abstract artificiality fulfilled the populace¡¯s appetite for charm and passion.
Liu Xiaodong¡¯s paintings make an exception and are enriched with representation and integrality. In paintings that are like cinematic still frames, his crazy world lacks the hypocritical airs and graces as well as the hackneyed and stereotyped aesthetics which are representative of the ordinary artists¡¯questionable cultural position and standpoints. This standpoint without position becomes a more candid, free,and simple narration of each of these life stories, while the characters and events reflect a strange yet distant reality, as if from an alternate world, adding another layer of meaning to the outwardly stable world.
The observations came from a unique perspective, a sincere sympathy and temperament, as well as a feeling of fastidium and helplessness create a deeper contradiction; for the humanness and recept of the commoners¡¯ lives, as the representation of normal existence and the subject matter¡¯s own infatuation makes this heartless world somehow unpredictable yet holy.
What Liu Xiaodong saw naturally became his paintings¡¯ subject matter. Their natural yet truthful properties both disengage and silence viewers. This does not only come from his style of observation and realization, but more from his unique elimination of the artistic language, which makes reality dissipate under his brush like ice melting in the fire. His painting style is like drifting clouds or flowing water which mystically both contain and bear the weight of the doubtful realities of the world, making these snippets of art into a parallel reality. This gives people who strive everyday in a hopeless struggle another method for approaching, caring for and sympathizing their world.
¡°Three Gorges: Displaced Population¡± is Liu Xiaodong¡¯s new work. In the history of Chinese oil paintings, this subject matter and sheer size of this piece is unparalleled. The complexitiy of the meaning as well as the layout of the painting force people to tremble with awe at its potence. The humane perspective and superior literary style leave viewers with an unforgettable emotional impression. This group of work is a continuation from Xiaodong¡¯s former work. The paintings¡¯ sincere and noble commonplace details give the image unbelievable realism. Their epic sensibility and ghastly appearances make people terrified of Xiaodong¡¯s character and methods. ¡°Three Gorges: Displaced Population¡± exhibits an artists¡¯ view of the world. This attitude derives from the unfortunate historical facts, forced migrants, relocated villages, as well as the barren, fragmented lives of the families, their lack of kindness or resentment, their personal stories, conflict of ideologies, and the irrefutable alterations to history surrounding the Three Gorges. Every blade of grass and every tree, every bird and beast, every brick and tile, all contribute to the most unforgettable painting in contemporary Chinese art history, presenting a national scar and an artists¡¯ wordless standpoint.
The painting displays its full power here. Time stops, allowing the wordless narrator to speak, giving people who did not have the opportunity a chance to acquiesce to the happenings of this world. Regardless of aesthetics or perspective, ¡°Three Gorges: Displaced Population¡± will become one of the most rare and important works in our lifetime.