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 Liu Ye  (1964 - )

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Lived/Active: China/Germany      Known for: child themed highly colored avant-garde painting

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Liu Ye
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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Liu Ye is a contemporary Chinese artist, born in Beijing.  He studied in Beijing at the School of Arts and Crafts and the Central Academy of Fine Arts.

Liu Ye has stated, “I find that art should not interfere with politics because I see art as something universal, and not as something emanating from a specific country.”

Unlike many Chinese children of his generation, Liu Ye was exposed to Western children’s books, including books by Hans Christian Andersen. His father worked as an author of children’s books, both for the government, and with his own texts. Because of his job, Liu Senior had access to “a library of children’s books from around the world.” Though Liu Senior was a writer, he did not illustrate his own books.

While once playing a childhood game, Liu Ye unintentionally injured a friend. Feeling guilty, Liu Ye closed himself in his room. In an effort to cheer up his son, Lui Senior risked punishment to bring home volumes of Christian Andersen’s fairy tales. Liu Ye sites these days of self-isolation with Christian Andersen’s stories, in violation of government controlled reading, as the time in which he decided to become an artist. However indirectly, “each of these tales exerted an influence on Liu Ye’s art.”

During this period in history, Mao’s state-mandated children’s books were likened to “handbooks on good behavior tailored to boy scouts.”  For two decades, these types of books were used for children's education.

Liu Ye studied abroad in Germany for four years at the Hochschule der Kunst Berlin and in 1998, was Artist-in-Residence at the Rijksacademie Amsterdam.  These exposures to other cultures added to his sense of independence from the artistic circles at home.  According to Karen Smith, author of Liu Ye: Temptations, “Liu Ye has always been taken seriously for the quality of his art, for its distinctive vision and content, as opposed to the members of the early avant-garde in China who were uniformly grouped together for their political stance and ambitions.”

In his early work Many of Liu Ye’s early paintings reference Mondrian.  Liu Ye also frequently incorporated the image of a rabbit-girl Miffy in his early work.

Liu Ye’s more recent paintings often feature a single, female figure framed by a large expanse of color. As stated by Kris Wilton of, “the colors look bright and pure, and the figures, with their wide-spaced eyes, are easy to read.”  Liu Ye has quoted Oscar Wilde, stating that “every painting is a self-portrait…The little girls, therefore, are me, but more beautiful.”

Liu Ye claims the loneliness and quiet felt in his paintings is related to his own painting style. He works without the help of an assistant, unaccompanied in his studio. Though Liu Ye works alone, he is not without external influences; some of his favorite artists include Lucas Cranach, Jean Chardin, Jan Vermeer and the minimalist movement.

Consistent with his diverse array of influences, Liu Ye has no interest in being labeled as a painter exclusively for Asian audiences. He has said that “Art should be universal, and it is my hope that my art crosses boundaries of all kinds.”

1993 Gallery Taube, Berlin
1995 Gallery Taube, Berlin
1996 Ming Jing Di Gallery, Beijing
2000 Lococo Mulder Gallery, Berlin
2001"Fellini, A Guardsman, Mondrian, The Pope and My Girlfriend," Chinese Contemporary Gallery, London, 11 April - 19 May 2001
2004"Red Yellow Blue," Schoeni Art Gallery, Hong Kong, 8 January – 14 January
2005 Project room/ Tomio Koyama Gallery, Tokyo, 22 April – 28 May, 2006“Temptations,” Sperone Westwater, New York, 14 September – 28 October 2007“Liu Ye,” Kunstmuseum Bern, Bern, Switzerland, 7 February – 1 April
2007 (catalogue) “Infatuation,” Johnen + Schoettle, Cologne, Germany
2009“Leave Me in the Dark,” Sperone Westwater, New York, 7 November – 19 December

Sperone Westwater,


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