The Preamble of Liu Yaming's Painting Set Author:Jia Fangzhou Date: 2010-08-25 Size:
For an artist, after a period of creation and practice, the most important thing would be to display his creations to the world. Occupied by the work, carrying an uneasy feeling and expectations...

For an artist, after a period of creation and practice, the most important thing would be to display his creations to the world. Occupied by the work, carrying an uneasy feeling and expectations... this is the recent state of Liu Yaming, who shuts his door and declines his friends’ visits, burying himself in his creation. The Century fable: “the road of freedom towards the public offerings” exhibition is going to be held in the Chinese Art Gallery. Although this great work which took him more than two years to complete, has been displayed in the 2009 “Chengdu Biennale”, it would be for the first time displayed as a solo exhibition to the audience in Beijing. What kind of response this great work whose author has devoted a full heart and life to, would create among the audience, is worth waiting for.

This is the first time Liu Yaming has held his solo exhibition in Beijing, therefore except displaying “the road of freedom towards the public offerings”, some works created during Liu Yaming’s career would also be displayed. Looking back the art journey of Liu Yaming, we can clearly identify in his pursuit of art a tendency of reflecting upon the ultimate problem of mankind and expressing the universal anxiety of human being. The reflection of human’s behavior always gives him the feeling that an inevitable disaster would come one day. His macro-thinking of human’s fate was first seen in his work series—“the bank”, which began in the late 90s of last century. Before that, his works in terms of sources could be divided into two categories: the first category is the relatives and families who are close to his emotional experience, such as, “grandma”, “editor in chief of the past-father,” “wife” and even the “self-portrait”, etc. The second category is the praise of women’s beauty through portraits. They are his own words, to reveal their inner world through portraits, and to convey a kind of “poetic care”.

In the works of the first category, we can feel the thought process and emotional backing of the painter through his affectionate portrayal; while the works of the second category mainly reflect the painter’s contemplation of women as “individual”. However, regardless of the style of the works, the painter has devoted a full enthusiasm of life towards the object of his works through the fine classical painting technique. Liu Yaming adopts classical realism style in his painting. He taught himself in terms of skills (without formal training in college). This originates from his worship of the classical spirit. He has taken the opportunity to examine in depth the origin and the development of the western classical painting when he held exhibition abroad. And he has indulged himself before the original works of the classical master Caravaggio and Rembrandt. These masters have provided endless resources and inspiration for Liu Yaming’s art. Their influences on Liu Yaming are not limited to the technique, but extend to the comprehension of the formal, elegant classical spirit which is full of human glory. It is this sense of aesthetic taste and human feelings which go beyond technique that forms the core of Liu Yaming’s art.

When he turned the focus from individual towards the group, his work was being casted a color of universalism. This kind of universalism is embodied in his series work “the bank” fristly. In this series, the painter has extend his affection towards individual such as relatives and families to the whole human being. They are no longer individual or personal works, but the works expressing the painter’s reflection of the fate of human being through a “grand narrative” approach. At this point the artist is expressing his universal caring towards the “mortal beings” and his worry and uneasiness towards the human fate, as well as the sympathy and concern towards the misfortune, hopelessness, suffering and sorrow of human being. Sometimes the painter implies an irreversible fate through a great space (such as “the bank” 1), sometimes the painter tries to connotes the danger of fate and unexpectness of future through the angry staring eyes of the Kingkong (such as “the bank” 2), Even with the blessing of the merciful Buddha (such as “the bank” 3), the human could not escape from his tragic fate.

It is the spirit of tragedy contained in the series work “the bank” that forms the prelude and ideological foundation of “the road of freedom towards the public offerings”. In traditional society, although the productivity is low and the material is poor, people enjoyed a life of peace. While in the modern society, the anxiety of living constitutes the common predicament of modern people. An Chinese-German scholar has summed up the reason of the human plight as “three alienation”: the alienation of man and nature, the alienation between human and the alienation between man and God. (Sun Zhiwen: “modern man’s anxiety and hope” P67, Joint Publishing 1995 edition). These “three alienations” have trapped modern people in serious crisis. They have been the research topics of Heidegger, Sartre, Carl Jaspers and have also been the problems of doctors. The modern people have been surrounded by the “products” created by human being himself and human is more and more distant from nature. The urban population is getting more dense while people are becoming increasingly unfamiliar; and the separation with God makes modern people lose their spirit refuge. Nietzsche became extremely painful for this and he declared, “God is dead”, and he pointed out the reason: We killed the God, we were the murders. How awful is the death reason! He also pointed out that the difficulties of spirit people encounter after the death of God. “Sun had been eliminated, the night was coming, the sky was getting darker and darker, and we made mistakes in the endless nothingness. Earth loosened the sun. We were stripped of all solid support, we fell upon the former servant, faltering” (quoted from the previous book p. 80). Maybe this sensitive philosopher has exaggerated the spirit problem of modern people. However, his description of the mental state and unnamed fear of modern people can fully prove that Liu Yaming’s creation of the great scene of disaster has its basis.

The scene displayed in “the road of freedom towards the public offerings (300cm×400cm×4, 1600cm in total) is shocking. Thousands of people with fearful expression are running from the back of the picture towards the front. On the left of the painting there is a huge reclining Buddha surrounding by people. The clouds in the shape of tornado have been spreading all the time, creating a climate of tension and terror, as if a great catastrophe is coming... It is obvious that Yaming want to express his deep concern of the human fate through a metaphorical way. The great reclining Buddha and the person walking from the great distance (a “Jesus” or “God”?) are clearly spiritual symbols. The human being could never be stripped from its psychological refuge, or they will become the orphans losing the spirit patron. What is more incredible is that Yaming, by his intuition and premonition, has unfortunately proved a real catastrophic event! Not before the completion of the work, the Wenchuan earthquake took place! The things Yaming displayed in his painting one year ago have surprisingly become reality. It is as if that those desperate people facing the heaven with fear came from Wenchuan! As early as a year ago (exactly May 2, 2007), it is as if the artist was determined to sent this warning to the human being in advance. While unexpectedly, the painting has turned into a mental rehearsal of this disaster!

In particular, the painter himself is from Neijiang of Sichuan province. Did the artist born in Sichuan have a premonition of a disaster in advance? Then, where was his premonition from? The artist himself cannot explain, and we certainly cannot give a straight interpretation. But still, Yaming has display such a real disaster which brought great fear to the human being on the canvas. The artist is not a prophet, he is such filled with concern towards the human fate, the deep worry of the living environment of human being. He is worried about the human group who lost their faith and ys disturbed by the reflection of human behavior. When we come back to his series paintings “the bank”, it is not difficult to see the spiritual atmosphere through the whole works. In fact, the artists in that group of works have pictured a thick color of tragedy, with a mysterious atmosphere of uneasiness.

Liu Yaming always had a strong desire of “grand narrative”. The size of series works “the bank” is quite large (the size is 280cm×220cm). It seems that he is always trapped by a tragic storm, always wants to predict the future of human being by a kind heart. In fact, many intellectuals full of human feelings would always have a strange foreboding feeling of the great events happen in human society. Most of the time they wouldn’t notice until the reality proved their prediction. This is not unseen in the history of both China and abroad. Take the Chinese modern art exhibition as an example, the series of events and the signs and hints contained in some works could be seen as a preview of the events happen six months after. No one can predict the future, but the hunch is there, although the anticipator himself could not explain.

In his comment of this work, Wang Kang also highly praised this “great intuition of artistic genius”. He said, “In 1900, in the opening of Inauguration de l’exposition universelle, the entire West is intoxicated with joy in the new century, only two artists saw the shadow of the European horizon. The French poet Paul Valery expressed his warning by his special sense of space: this is only a small promontory of the Asian continent! And the young Picasso hang a painting called a “doomsday” in the Spanish Hall. All the guests had not realized the truth revealed by the history intuition of the poet and the artist. As early as 300 years ago, the British theater talent, William Shakespeare, has issued a inquiry through the mouth of the Prince of Denmark: to be or not to be? When the wild nineteenth-century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote ‘God is dead, the Russian writer Dostoevsky had foreseen the horrible scene in his work “The Possessed” when the full value capsized and the world was in the power of the wicked. Before then, Baudelaire, Eliot, Camus, Sartre has directly described Europe and the world as ‘Les Fleurs du Mal’, ‘Wasteland’, ‘disgusting rot pool’ and ‘torture chamber’. The holocaust in twentieth century has proved the great artistic intuition of the artists’”. He added, “Now, finally the Chinese artists show up, not only testify the times, but also open the prelude of the trial of humanity. In all the ancient and brand-new human inventions, only art would come to the scene in the moment of suffering, degradation, sin and destruction.” (see Wang Kang: the thoughts in front of “the road of freedom towards the public offerings”). This is not only the approval of Liu Yaming’s “the road of freedom towards the public offerings”, but also the approval of all the arts.

American scholar Norman Brown once said in his “the Confrontation of Life and Death”: Human still continue to create history today, but they are not consciously aware of what they really need, and under what conditions would their unhappiness end. In fact, what the human being is doing today appears to make them unhappy. But they called this progress. This is undoubtedly a profound insight and reflection into the human behavior. Only when a country, a nation, a political party, even the whole mankind continuously reflect on their actions can there be real progress. It is in this sense that the work “the road of freedom towards the public offerings” really shows its value and significance.

[Editor] Elemy Liu