PAE: £1,421,867-£1,895,823
Liu Xiaodong, Showered in Sunlight
Liu Xiaodong, Showered in Sunlight, signed in Chinese and dated 1990.2; signed and titled in Chinese and dated 1990 on the reverse, framed, oil on canvas, 180 by 195 cm; 70⅞ by 76¾ in. © Images are copyright of their respective owners, assignees or others.

Liu Xiaodong (b. 1963) is a Chinese figurative painter living and working in Beijing. He received his training from the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) during the years 1984-88. At this time artists were just beginning to react to the Mao-instituted Socialist Realism, an aesthetic dominant since the 1960s that would have all artists painting fictions such as healthy and happy peasants and muscular factory workers. This proliferation of ideal imagery is speculated to have led to a confusion of identity for the average Chinese citizen. Liu reflects: "When we painted models in school, everyone was willing to paint anyone that looked like a foreigner. I think that this also had to do with psychological factors. For a long-time, Chinese people were worthless... You despised yourself and you admired the individuals who could come and go as they pleased. This mentality influenced the entire education system and its teaching style... the whole system that we were living in taught us to worship foreign things... We lack perspective on our own life." Rebelling against the "ideal", Liu began to paint the working and migrant class, his friends and family, choosing to document the lives of ordinary people in their typical, often traumatic settings. Throughout the 1990s Liu Xiaodong painted mostly from his own photographs. In "Disobeying the Law", 1996, Liu depicts migrant workers, stuffed in the back of a truck, like pigs, naked, smiling naively. Liu states: "The Chinese are pitiable. They have no individual life. Everyone suffers through every day mechanically, doing nothing actively or energetically. Much like pigs, they are not in charge of their own fates." In the early 2000s, Liu began to move his practice outdoors, painting directly from life, with his "Great Migration at the Three Gorges", 2003. One gets the sense from Liu Xiaodong that establishing an actual connection with the people that he depicts is crucial to his practice and his message. Acknowledgement of the downtrodden, the farmer, the migrant worker, etc. is a necessity in Liu's work. Through painting, on site and in front of his subjects, Liu initiates a program of social engagement, actively addressing at the level of the individual, the psychological wounds of effaced-identity that plagues China, elevating the status of the ordinary. Liu Xiaodong is represented by Lisson Gallery. See also: Zhang Xiaogang, Fang Lijun, Zeng Fanzhi, Yue Minjun, and Eric Fischl.

Video: Interview with Liu Xiaodong on Chinese Contemporary Art in the 1980s, by Asia Art Archive