Liu Wei

b. 1965, Beijing
Painter
Liu Wei was born into a family of army officers and became one of the most successful protagonists of the art current known as Cynical Realism (Popi) which emerged in the early 1990s. Graduating from the Print Department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing (1989), Liu’s signature style deforms the faces and bodies of figures presented in anecdotes of everyday life which in his early paintings belong to the immediate experience of the artist himself. The actual appearance of members of his family or group of close friends in these paintings is distorted through a strong textural processing of the faces and the unnatural positions of the bodies. This practice transforms ‘normal’ individuals into surreal ‘types’ that assume an iconic, universal demeanour of malaise.
In New Generation (1990), for example, Liu portrays two baby boys (himself and his brother) against the backdrop of a huge Mao portrait for a photo-taking ritual. While the Chairman’s face towers over the composition, it is only present as a portrait on the wall used to frame the artist’s self-portrait. The tension produced by the juxtaposition of the highly iconic portrait of Mao and the restlessness of the children illustrates a shift, whereby the Chairman has become a memory while a new generation is making its way to the centre of the picture.
Liu Wei has taken part in numerous shows: the Venice Biennale (1993, 1995), ‘China’s New Art Post-89’ in Hong Kong (1993) (see China’s New Art, Post-89 (Hong Kong, 1993) and China Avant-Garde (Berlin, 1993)); ‘China!’ in Bonn (1996); ‘Inside/Out’ at the Asia Society in New York and MoMA in San Francisco (1998–9). He lives and works in Beijing.
Doran, Valerie C. (ed.) (1993). China’s New Art, Post-1989. Hong Kong: Hanart T Z Gallery.
Gao, Minglu, (ed.) (1998). Inside Out-New Chinese Art, Berkeley, Los Angeles: University of California Press.
Pong, Melanie et al. (eds) (1995). L’altra Faccia, Tre Artisti Cinesi a Venezia. Milano: Zanzibar. [Catalogue published on the occasion of the 46th Venice Biennale].
Singapore Art Museum (1997). Quotation Marks, Chinese Contemporary Paintings. Singapore: Singapore Art Museum.
FRANCESCA DAL LAGO

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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