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  • Provenance

    Acquired directly from the artist

  • Exhibited

    Bonn, Kunst & Ausstellungshalle, April 12, 1999 – April 6, 2000; Vienna, Kunstmuseum Bonn/Kunstlerhaus & Zoer Haus, May 7, 2000 – January 10, 2000; Zeitwenden—Ruckblick und Ausblick

  • Literature

    Initially inspired by Chinese calligraphy, landscape and ink painting, as well as European New Expressionist painting, Liu Wei's painting underwent a gradual process of fusion and reinterpretation of past models.

    No Smoking evokes pollution in the environment, as well as in the spirits. An inner, as well as societal anxiety is expressed in the destroyed environment that Liu depicts. His landscape easily becomes a mental one when penetrated by an individual. But the landscape can also be perceived as universal, having survived some nuclear catastrophe. As an image of destruction emerges a message for the protection of nature and the health of human beings.

    With No Smoking, Liu achieved a certain purity of painting, leaving the canvas almost untouched in several areas. His flowing and breathing use of paint creates a certain fluidity that the viewer can easily penetrate. The paint takes on its own existence from the unity of the painting, as it breathes into the canvas infusing it with color, and out of the canvas spilling unto its surface. The brushstrokes express a powerful force, laid out with a perceivable energy and rhythm unto the surface. Through its intricate use of paint, the canvas is a testimony to the artist’s passion for his medium, paint.

    “I started to reflect on how I could depart from the standard criteria of representation of the most typical Chinese landscape tradition. The models I resorted to are very classical, yet I wanted to use my own way to handle them. At the beginning, for instance, I was influenced by Badashanren, but later my landscapes changed, to get further and further away from his style”
    (Extract of an interview with Liu Wei recorded in Beijing, February 24, 2004.)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Liu Wei is a Beijing native, born in 1965. Initially inspired by Chinese calligraphy, landscape and ink painting, as well as European New Expressionist painting, Liu's painting underwent a gradual process of fusion and reinterpretation of past models. His works are sumptuously painted riots of death, sex, and nature; although pegged as a Cynical Realist, his inner sensibility is steadfastly romantic at its core. Nataline Colonello, who calls Liu’s vision “the frantic life of a decomposing world,” writes: “Of Chinese ink-and-wash painting, what is disclosed and enhanced in Liu Wei's works is its originally most veiled side - the depiction, through the elements of landscape, animals or human beings, of a beauty that does not exclude allusions of a more sensual nature. The pleasure derived from the sight of enjoyable subjects, enriched by Liu Wei's own imagination and erotic desires, is thus openly exalted and transferred to the support generating pictures that, as in Hans Bellmer's theory about "perception-representation" images, take on multiple meanings and interchangeable forms.” (N. Colonello, “The Floating Spirit of Flowers,” at

    No mere pastoral, Liu’s painting is an oversized rhapsody in which life, dream, and afterlife amalgate in one slow summer afternoon. In a deceptively luxuriant landscape of sweet pastels, skulls (one smoking a cigarette) and crossbones sprout along a sundrenched path. Liu’s familiar cryptic mantras, “No Smoking” and “I Like Sun” scatter in the air like spirits freed of their grounded skulls. Strange processes occur on the canvas’s surface, as if Liu’s world is wrinkling through Alice’s rabbit hole; the air itself breathes painterly life into flesh-colored, vaguely human parts. Across the sky and trees the artist executes strokes that are powerfully expressionistic, almost violent, but then wash into painterly drips at the bottom, giving the impression that the frail landscape could peel right off the canvas. Although the work is devoid of human likeness, every inch of the canvas is suffused with our deepest emotions of imagination, desire, and loss—a testimony to the artist’s fantastic allegory of human existence.


No Smoking

Oil and graphite on canvas.
73 3/4 x 98 1/4 in. (187.3 x 249.6 cm).
Signed and dated “Liu Wei [in Chinese and English] 1999.17” along lower edge and again on reverse.

£100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for £378,400

China Avant-Garde: The Farber Collection

The Farber Collection
13 October 2007, 7pm