Purple Air III No. 2 (diptych)

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  • Provenance

    Wedel Fine Art, London
    Private Collection (acquired from the above)
    Phillips de Pury and Company, London, 29 June 2009, lot 129
    Private Collection, Asia (acquired from the above)
    Christie's, Hong Kong, 26 November 2016, lot 16
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    Liu Wei leads a contemporary generation of avant-garde Chinese artists forging a new vocabulary inspired by Western artistic references, forgoing the “Made-in-China” iconography, eluding a national narrative while alluding to their environs. A multifaceted artist and a thinker, Liu Wei continually pushes the boundaries in his pursuit of the ‘visual truth’ (Hans Ulrich Obrist, ‘Hans Ulrich Obrist: Interviews Liu Wei’, in The China Interviews, Hong Kong, March 2012, online). It is this search that links his diverse practices across paintings, photography, video, sculpture, and installation. ‘I don’t begin from a material or a technique and then think about what I want to do. Rather, I have an idea and then think about how to express it’ (Jerome Sans, ‘Liu Wei, an interview’, in China Talks, Beijing, 2009, p. 41).

    Executed in 2006, Purple Air III No. 2 is from Liu Wei’s seminal series of the same name. Cityscape dominates this impressively sized diptych. Sharp lines and stacked columns rendered in monochromatic shades of grey and punctured by sporadic verticals of bright white, yellow, orange and red evoke soaring skyscrapers. A round shape referencing the sun or the moon glow through the enveloping hazy air, opaque grey tinged with a purple hue. Dark specks hover nearby, reminiscent of birds. A large blue rectangle superimposed across suggests a window through which the spectator peers, catching a glimpse of the sprawling metropolis. Geometric abstraction amplifies the verticality of the urban architecture. There is a brutal modernity to this systematic, grid-like composition. Aptly, Liu’s working method consists of first creating a design using computer-generated pixels and patterns, before transposing onto canvas.

    The Purple Air series began in 2005, a time of Liu Wei’s emergence onto the international art scene and conceptual shift towards a more subtle narrative. Liu’s motif of a cityscape reduced to geometric abstraction has since reappeared in various painting series and installations.

    It is unclear whether Purple Air III No.2 is a metaphor or indictment. Liu Wei candidly admitted that although the idea of pollution in Chinese cities crossed his mind, his rendering of buildings and cities is rooted in his belief that they represent the blueprint of human existence. The title emanates from the Chinese saying ‘purple air comes from the east’ (紫氣東來) that augurs an auspicious omen. ‘In the Chinese classics, this idea of purple air refers to a state of haze, a lack of clarity, but actually full of vitality. There are so many problems, but it is still lovely’ (Jerome Sans, ‘Liu Wei, an interview’, in China Talks, Beijing, 2009, p. 43).

    ‘I am with the viewers, in the quest for meaning. I hope the viewers could use my works as starting points or points of reference in their discussions, contributing to their own thinking. In this sense, art means freedom. Not only am I free as a creator, the viewers are free as spectators as well.’ (Sam Gaskin, ‘Liu Wei in Conversation’, in Ocula, 1 April 2015).

  • Catalogue Essay


    「 我不是從材料或技術面來考慮創作。 而是先有一個想法,然後考慮如何表達它。」(漢斯·烏爾里希·奧布里斯特,<漢斯·烏爾里希·奧布里斯特:劉韡訪談>,錄於《中國訪談》,北京,2012年,網絡文章)

    《紫氣三 第2號》作於2006年,屬劉韡著名的同名系列作品。此雙聯作尺幅碩大,以城市景觀佔據主要空間。線條鮮明利落,大量縱向柱體呈灰調單色系,偶爾穿插著鮮艷白、黃、橙和紅色豎線,猶如高聳的摩天大廈。朦朧的空氣裡灰色透著些紫色,其中可見一個代表太陽或月亮的圓形發光體,附近有幾個深色的黑點,像是盤旋的鳥兒。畫面重置著一個大型藍色長方形框,像是觀者穿過窗戶的視線,看著不斷擴展的大都市。畫面的幾何抽象令都市建築顯得更加誇張,構圖結構鮮明,如網格一般,是現代化冷酷現實。劉韡的創作手法是先以電腦生成的像素和圖案設計,再轉移至畫布之上。


    究竟《紫氣三 第2號》是個隱喻或控訴不得而知。劉韡直白承認,雖然他的確思考過中國城市的污染狀況,但他對城市和建築的描繪是源於他心中城市和建築所代表的人類存在藍圖。題目來自成語「紫氣東來」,寓意祥兆。「在中國古典中,紫氣是一種朦朧的狀態,非清澈的,但充滿活力。有那麼多問題,但依然可愛。」(Jerome Sans,<劉韡訪談>,錄於《中國訪談》,北京,2009年,第43頁)

    「我與觀者一樣,在尋求意義。我希望觀者可以視我的作品為起點,或者討論的借鑒點,發展他們自己的思考。如此一來,藝術代表著自由,不僅我作為藝術家是自由的,觀者也是自由的。」(Sam Gaskin,<對話劉韡>,錄於《Ocula》,2015年4月1日)

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Liu Wei

Purple Air III No. 2 (diptych)

oil on canvas
each 301.6 x 190.4 cm (118 3/4 x 74 7/8 in.)
overall 301.6 x 380.8 cm. (118 3/4 x 149 7/8 in.)

Painted in 2006.

HK$3,000,000 - 5,000,000 

sold for HK$4,350,000

Contact Specialist

Isaure de Viel Castel
Head of Department, 20th Century & Contemporary Art

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

Hong Kong Auction 26 May 2019