Liu Wei (don't use) - BRIC London Thursday, April 14, 2011 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist

  • Catalogue Essay

    This work was painted in 1992 in the style of Cynical Realism, the term defined by the art historian and leading light of contemporary Chinese art Li Xianting, in relation to the neo-realistic trend that emerged in Beijing after 1989. The playful humour that is present in Liu's work reflects the scepticism and disenchantment that he and his contemporaries felt after the brief idealistic period between the end of China's Cultural Revolution and the tragic events of suppression that took place on Beijing's Tiananmen Square in June 1989, which led to the return of strict state control and conservatism. The artist's unique choice of presentation is seen in the tight framing, the extremely realistic twisted profile of the worker, and the landscape that seems to be glued to his sculpted, scarred face. The resulting tension arouses both discomfort and fascination. Dreamlike figures are painted directly on the wooden frame, forming a frieze of surreal and mythical animals, flowers, the raging Pagoda Sea, and naked humans whose eyes converge on the canvas – and who could have easily been the subject of Paul Gauguin's expressionist paintings. However Liu reveals subconscious reality not only through the frame's direct reference to dreams, but also through the canvas – whose focal point is an extremely realistic, detailed human face giving the viewer an impression of obsession. Like Zhang Xiaogang, Liu Wei places the human figure at the centre of his practice, and thus continues the figurative tradition of contemporary Chinese avant-garde art. His oeuvre is distinguished by his ability to modulate classical figurative language and marry it with the distorted and troubling context of surrealism.


Untitled (Worker)

Oil on canvas in artist's frame.
87 x 87 cm (34 1/4 x 34 1/4 in).

£100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for £385,250


14 - 15 April 2011