For his first exhibition in the UK, the Lisson Gallery has invited renowned Chinese artist Liu Xiaodong (pronounced 'Shiow-dong') to London to produce a new body of work for his inaugural show at the gallery. Over the next six weeks, Liu will embed himself in a nearby community, documenting his encounters with others, much as he has done on previous projects while living and painting among residents of Tibet, Japan, Italy, Cuba and Israel. As part of his direct and conceptual approach, Liu writes and draws in a journal and takes photographs before building a temporary studio on location, in order to paint en plein air or 'xiesheng' as it is known in Chinese.
For his most recent major body of work, The Hotan Project (2012-13), exhibited at the Today Art Museum in Beijing earlier this year, Liu produced a quartet of monumental canvases and numerous over-painted photographs in and around the notorious opencast jade mines and the devastated landscapes of a remote area of China's largest, westerly province of Xinjiang, close to Tajikistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. His Hotan pictures capture a group of workers digging for increasingly rare jade deposits and highlight the ethnic and social tensions between the predominantly Muslim locals, the Uygur, and the ruling Han Chinese to whom the precious stones are generally sold to, either as carved objects or as an alternate form of currency. In the past, the artist has chronicled the realities of modern China, in depictions of villages destroyed in the construction of the Three Gorges Dam for Three Gorges: Displaced Population (2003-06), while Out of Beichuan, Into Taihu (2010) was painted amid the rubble of the Sichuan earthquake.
A sense of proximity to his subject matter is vital to Liu, who states that, 'My only goal is to confront people and see them as they really are.' The artist's immersive method of individual and collective portraiture results in pieces that have participatory and performative dimensions, while their scale often matches that of filmmaking, an activity Liu is well versed in, having previously worked as an actor in Wang Xiaoshuai's acclaimed The Days, or else as producer and subject of award-winning documentaries about his own practice. Liu's London project will be documented by filmmaker Sophie Fiennes, who has also filmed the German artist Anselm Kiefer at work as well as a profile of Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek.
About the artist
Liu Xiaodong is one of China's foremost artists and a painter of international stature. Born in 1963 to factory worker parents in Jincheng, a town in northeastern China, he trained at Beijing's Central Academy of Fine Arts where he now teaches as a professor. A pioneer of neo-realism, his work was integral in the transformation of Chinese contemporary art during the 1990s, radically diverging from the Socialist Realism that dominated artistic production during the Mao era. Politically and socially aware, Liu explores the human experience through his art, while expanding the possibilities of painting. Recent solo shows include: Today Art Museum, Beijing (2013); Kunsthaus Graz (2012); Asian Art Museum, San Francisco (2006) and Guangdong Museum of Art, Guangzhou (2006).