Trained in Chinese Socialist Realism during the era of Mao, Hung Liu has become known for a drippy, layered style of painting that erodes the hard neo-classical surface of the once-official style. With these paintings, she returns to a more controlled academic application of paint, but in order to fill the canvas with ruin and fragmentation, the broken remains of the earth rupturing – with chaos.
After the Tongshan quake of 1976, the Chinese government refused international aid and did not disclose details of the disaster. In Liu’s new paintings, the painted details – depicting the shattered settings of people’s lives – testify to the continuing role of Chinese (but not Socialist) realism in bearing witness to modern history. What the artist also tries to capture in the stunned faces of history’s anonymous witnesses, though, are the Apsaras that rise up from the nation’s ancient past, and out of hers as well.
Liu was born in Changchun, China in 1948, growing up under the Maoist regime. She immigrated to the US in 1984 to attend the University of California, San Diego, where she received her MFA. She currently lives in Oakland and is a tenured professor in the art department at Mills College.