Liu Wei

Hong Kong Tatler - - Features -

The drive to Liu Wei’s stu­dio in Bei­jing’s 798 Art District is a dystopian one. A vast sea of rub­ble stretches out as far as the eye can see. Shat­tered bricks, con­crete slabs and metal scraps from the homes that once stood there blan­ket the ground, while an oc­ca­sional fig­ure, bun­dled in lay­ers of cloth­ing, sorts through the de­bris. Coal is burnt all around for heat­ing, and the air is brown and acrid. This is the rapidly ur­ban­is­ing land­scape of Bei­jing, where the old is flat­tened to make way for the new, and where progress and de­vel­op­ment bar­rels forth at an ac­cel­er­ated rate. The artist’s 32,000sqft stu­dio, a space he has in­hab­ited for 10 years, is sched­uled to be de­mol­ished next year.

It seems a fit­ting back­drop to the artist’s work. Liu be­gan his ca­reer as a mem­ber of Bei­jing’s sub­ver­sive Post- Sense Sen­si­bil­ity move­ment of the late ’90s, which moved away from the political ide­al­ism that dom­i­nated Chi­nese con­tem­po­rary art, in­stead em­brac­ing con­cep­tual art and im­pro­vi­sa­tion.

For more than a decade, Wei has been ex­per­i­ment­ing with dif­fer­ent ma­te­ri­als to assem­ble his geo­met­ric sculp­tures, us­ing found ob­jects such as door frames, bits of metal, wooden beams and scraps of fur­ni­ture. Ar­chi­tec­ture and ur­ban­ism fre­quently emerge as themes in the artist’s work. Even his brightly coloured paint­ings— ab­stract planes of ver­ti­cal and hor­i­zon­tal lines—are an at­tempt to cre­ate or­der out of the per­vad­ing chaos of the con­tem­po­rary ur­ban land­scape.

A ma­que­tte of his ex­hi­bi­tion space for the Bentu show sits in the of­fice and re­flects a dis­tinct de­par­ture from his com­plex 3D con­struc­tions. “I’m aim­ing for a fake, flat at­mos­phere for the ex­hi­bi­tion,” he ex­plains. “It’s some­thing dif­fer­ent than my usual work. It’s a new start­ing point, a work and idea in progress. But I don’t know what it means yet.”

THE SE­RIES IS A TONGUE-IN-CHEEK COM­MEN­TARY ON COL­LECT­ING AND THE COM­MOD­I­FI­CA­TION OF ART, ONE IN WHICH XU HAS LIT­ER­ALLY RE­DUCED ART TO MONEY

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