Contemporary Chinese art is fast gaining popularity these days, to the point that major pieces have passed the million dollar mark. Prominent artist Hung Liu arrives in town to put up a retrospective show which features fascinating Chinese contemporary artworks created between 1990 and 2006. We grabbed her for a quick chat about her art, which often touches on China’s tumultuous political scene.
Old Road, West Wind is a retrospective look at your art pieces created between 1990 and 2006. Looking back, what do you think are the milestones in your career?
There are two kinds of milestones—personal and professional ones. Many times they are intertwined. When I was only a few months old, China was at the beginning of the end of the Civil War. I was in my mother’s arms fleeing with thousands of refugees. That’s not only a personal milestone, but also a milestone in national and familial history. Maybe that’s why a lot of my paintings are referenced in historical photographs, especially those of refugees in wars and victims of chaos and turmoil. Another milestone was the Cultural Revolution. Working in the fields with the peasants, I understand what they go through and identify with them somewhat. So my paintings of working people reflect my memory and respect for this anonymous force that moves history. It’s important to give history human faces. Most of them are just ordinary people on the bottom of the social pyramid. Immigrating to the US also gave me a different perspective to look at my homeland and the US. Some of my works reflect the physical, emotional and psychological displacement of these “immigrants.”
The subject matter of your art is often women. Is there any reason behind that?
One important reason is that I am a woman. I am from a family where the matriarchs, my grandmother and my mother, are strong women in a patriarchal society, where their potential was never fully realized and appreciated. Metaphorically, female images symbolize the vulnerability, pride, integrity and beauty of the people and nation.
For the uninitiated, what are the issues that you touch on in this show?
Not only do I want to give history a human face, especially the history of the Chinese, I also want to return the dignity and respect they are supposed to be given. I want to bring forth forgotten events or images or people, in order to review our recent past. And in this sense, my works, mostly paintings and picture planes, become the memorial sites to commemorate the forgotten history and loss of memory.
How do you select which pieces to be included in this exhibition?
Since this is my first solo show in Singapore, I would like to show works from a wider time span. There are different subject matters, painting styles, pallets and scales. Maybe this is a good way to have an introductory show for Singaporeans.