Liu Hong Wei’s work features children as his main motif, often set within stage-like, theatrical settings that recall the architecture from his childhood surroundings. Exaggerated, over-sized every-day objects often appear, and his children interact with them, chasing each other, daydreaming, and always engaged in their various games and activities. However, there is a faint hint of loneliness in the colourful and pleasant atmosphere. This unique dream-like ambience is the signature of Liu’s art.
Liu Hong Wei was raised in the 1970s which was a period of socialist movement in China. His childhood memories inspired him to paint children as his motif. Alongside such symbols that indicate the children’s living when the Cultural Revolution took place, for example chasing with poultries and watching crickets fight, surreal elements are conveyed throughout the proportionally unrealistic settings. The effect of dramatic fabrication and humor ease off the urgent stress of calamities in the real world at the level of artistic reality.
All of his works are rendered with meticulous attention to detail, in particular his depiction of light and shadow. Liu Hong Wei has devised a method of pointillism that involves the slow layering of dots of overlaid colour, after which he takes a palette knife and makes small cross-hatch marks on the canvas. The result is a richly textured, granular finish that is unique to his canvases. As if mirroring the modernization of China in the last decade, Liu Hong Wei’s work has become more sophisticated.
In his recent work, Liu Hong Wei has incorporated imagery and thematic elements from several Surrealist masters including Miro, Magritte, and Ernst, as he seeks to enter a ‘dialogue’ with them by letting his children interact with and ‘re-create’ their masterpieces. For example in Miro on the Wall II, the children in the painting are drawing at the work of Spanish artist Joan Miro. The scene humorously illustrates the artistic belief of Miro that we should liberate our unconscious and illogical mind – the intuitive mind of a child, manifested here in Liu’s characters.
Throughout his career, however, his children have retained their innocent, simplistic ways, no matter which new setting Liu Hong Wei decides to place them within. It is just as the artist’s attitude towards the world.
The paintings of Liu Hongwei always look like scenes from a dream.
In his works, people and objects of the real world are put into fabrications, not in accordance with the norms. Yet the depictions are fine and delicate, every scene on the canvas is fascinatingly alive. Therefore, he is drawing a world that is both distant from and close to us, in which familiar characters are playing absurd stories in a bizarre setting. His vision liberates our heart, changes our perspective and proposes infinite freedom from the known. The artist is leading the viewers to jump out of the box and to release themselves from their blind spots. He opens up a new horizon that invites us to deep introspection.
There are no kitschy Chinese symbols in Liu’s works.
There are indeed pulses of Chinese culture, but all subtly embedded. If we look more closely at his pictures, there are in fact such spontaneity and simplicity as typical of rural China everywhere on the canvas, as well as the discreet sophistication incarnated by the Chinese literati. Nor has Liu overlooked the impacts of dramatic changes on the present generation of the people in Mainland China, including their emotional flux, as well as their doubts about, or their hope in respect of, their future. In his works, there is no lacking of delicate and yet penetrating revelations and explorations on these subjects.
There are no shouts of statement on contemporary issues in Liu’s works.
He does, however, accurately perceive the anxiety and solitude in modern life, and is able to deal with such serious questions with a style of amazing ease. Play-like scenes are right there to offer release from and consolation for the weary and messy reality. Liu takes root in the environment in which he grew up. Blessed with outstanding insight and the ability to generalize, while drawing inspirations from a limited temporal scope, Liu manages to build a unique artistic realm with lasting impacts.
His world is boundless.
Liu Hongwei has been living in China for his whole life up to now, yet his studies on art covers all the far horizons. He explores deep into all main schools of the Western art in modern time, with a view to find the direction for contemporary art from between the agreements and disagreements between the Chinese and the foreign cultures. In his works of the recent years, the signature characteristics of a number of Western masters are juxtaposed with his own style, whereby the household symbols are given new life and his inner world is merged with the universe further.
Excerpt from Foreword in Drama in Dream Catalogue, 2015