Liu Wei - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale Hong Kong Friday, October 6, 2023 | Phillips
  • One of China’s leading contemporary artists, Liu Wei is widely acclaimed for his multifaceted practice spanning video, installation, sculpture, painting, and drawing. Part of a generation that experienced the country’s rapid urbanisation and turbulent changes, his works often comment on modern-day interactions between nature and civilisation. Forging a uniquely abstract style, they act as reflections of China's radical transformation in the 21st century. 

    “My life and the environment around me have changed so much, and my work is a reflection on reality, taking topics from real life or inserting them into reality.” — Liu Wei

    Painted in 2010, Omen marks a departure from Liu’s famed Purple Air series and his flattened, grid-like cityscapes. Contrasting the abandonment of organic stimuli on a societal level by turning back to the natural world, it depicts a vivid yet abstracted view of a mountain, which draws from shanshui (mountain and water) in Chinese ink painting. Though it shares the same source of inspiration as his past works, there is a notable shift away from his precise, geometric representations of urban skylines.

    Unlike previous works created through the transfer of digital patterns onto canvas, Omen takes a more organic approach to painting. Comprising vibrant patches of blues, greens, yellow and reds against dark hues, all applied using fluid brushstrokes, it is a surreal reimagination of the traditional landscape genre. In using colours not typically found in nature, as well as the manipulation of forms into unfamiliar shapes, Liu places focus on expression over realism. The ethereal scene in Omen suggests close association with Expressionist painter Alexej von Jawlensky and his Variation series, who also depicted small landscapes with bright colours in an abstracted manner.


    Alexej von Jawlensky, Variation No. 10, 1916
    Collection of the Buffalo AKG Art Museum


    Repeatedly painting the same view from his window, Jawlensky abandoned figurative portraits for the exploration of seriality, non-representation and chromatic experimentation. Like Liu, Jawlensky was heavily influenced by his personal experiences and surroundings. But whereas Jawlensky’s change in subject matter was caused by the abrupt forced exile of Russians from Germany due to World War I, Liu’s paintings are informed by long-term observations of China’s post-Cultural Revolution era and the lingering aftermath of previous events. Echoing French philosopher Bruno Latour’s exploration of human-nature relationships, Omen questions the idea of anthropocentrism by moving nature into the foreground. Stripping away any sense of reality, Liu asks the viewers to consider the place nature holds in modern society, and what it means to be human in this ever-changing world.

    Born in Beijing in 1972, Liu’s first solo exhibition Purple Air was held at Grace Li Gallery, Zurich in 2006. Since then, the artist has been honoured with solo shows around the world, including the White Cube, London in 2014; Long March Space, Beijing in 2018; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland in 2019. His work is held in the collections of major international museums, including the M+ Sigg Collection in Hong Kong, the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, the Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul, and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles.


     In the studio with Liu Wei, 2018
    Video Courtesy of White Cube 

    • Provenance

      Long March Space, Beijing
      Acquired from the above by the present owner



signed and dated 'Liu Wei [in Chinese and Pinyin] 2018' on the reverse
oil on canvas
220 x 220 cm. (86 5/8 x 86 5/8 in.)
Painted in 2018.

Full Cataloguing

HK$1,400,000 - 2,400,000 

Contact Specialist

Anastasia Salnikoff
Head of Day Sale, Associate Specialist
+852 2318 2014

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

Hong Kong Auction 7 October 2023