The Prodigal Returns
Source:city weekend Author:Sandra Chen Date: 2008-08-16 Size:
Hung has titled most of the paintings in the exhibition after lyrics from the Internationale, Eugene Pottier's 1872 anthem for the proletariat masses.

Born in Manchuria in 1948 and raised in Beijing, Hung Liu grew up among the city's Communist elite, attending the same prestigious girls' boarding school as Mao's daughters. As a young woman, Hung studied art at the Central Academy of Fine Art, trained in Socialist Realism. “We were friendly with the Soviets then, and that was the education,” Hung tells City Weekend. A few years later life was very different: After emigrating to the U.S. in 1984, Hung never returned to Beijing to exhibit her work. Her current exhibition, Prodigal Daughter, at F2 Gallery, is the artist's first in Beijing in nearly 25 years.

 

Taking her inspiration from the 1949 film, Daughter of China, Liu reinterprets scenes from the black and white film in vivid color. Bright yellow clashes with violet, orange lights up a canvas, a smattering of red in a bloodshot eye changes a woman's face from concerned to weary. Liu describes the process as similar to composing music: “I improvise, and try to express my emotions. The orange, for example, is like a battleground, burning and gunfire.”

Hung has titled most of the paintings in the exhibition after lyrics from the Internationale, Eugene Pottier's 1872 anthem for the proletariat masses.

"It was a time when we believed in ideals," explains Liu, who served in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution. The show is seeped in Communist rhetoric, reinterpretations of what was hope sixty years ago.

Yet there is a powerfully human story in all of this. The climax of the film Daughters of China comes when a group of women decide to walk into a river and drown rather than be taken prisoner by the Japanese. The scene ends with the last bubbles of their submersion dispersing across the ripples. Liu has reinterpreted it as a painting entitled “A Better World Is in Birth,” a grey painting done in great broad strokes. Lean in close, though, and a rainbow of colors is hidden among the greys. Says Liu: “When I see that scene, I forget the political; instead, it's just humanity and heroism.”

 

[Editor] Mark Lee

    Artintern