WM | Whitehot Magazine of Contemporary Art

Liu Shiming, Cutting Mountains to Bring in Water, 1970, bronze

Robert C. By Morgan Ph.D August, 2022

Over the past few years, those of us who follow contemporary art in China have had the benefit of seeing—perhaps, mostly from a virtual perspective—the works of artists ranging from avant-gardism to current events such as Western pop and conceptual art. In ink painting, all of them, in their own way, have challenged the concept of traditional art in past centuries by choosing to be experimental.

On another level, few audiences have had the opportunity to experience the work of artists working outside the region who have brought modernist sensibilities along with folk traditions to Chinese art—an approach previously demonstrated through exhibitions in Beijing, Washington DC, and elsewhere. New York City. Liu Shiming (1926 – 2010) was classically trained in Chinese sculpture at the prestigious Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beljing in the late 1940s. While his earlier education focused on small, figurative bronze works, after graduation (1951) his work began to gradually change, focusing on large-scale, publicly displayed sculpture. One of these, the title Cutting through the mountains to bring in the water (1959), quickly brought his work to the attention of leading critics, collectors, museum directors, and other contemporary sculptors.

Despite his recent success, Liu Shiming never lost his interest or devotion to traditional folk art. Rather than a sculpture intended to attract followers of Western modernism, Liu’s primary audience came from everyday working-class people living in rural areas. The result of this media attention eventually became the impetus by which the artist decided to move from urbanism to the rural province of Henan and eventually to Hebei where rural life dominated the scene. Liu’s aesthetic focus shifts from fabulously rich museums to small locales amidst the everyday life of country dwellers.

Eli and Orphan, 1974

The source of his rural residence – from the 1980s to the early twenty-first century – brought works like magic. Someone who wants to fly (1982) and Reverend Eji and the orphans (2004) in a new context. Given their function and purpose these works suggest the character of masterpieces, but not from a modernist point of view. Thematically, these sculptures deal with motifs that seem both spiritual and earth-bound.

Lover, 1983

In one of Liu’s most celestial sculptures, the title Lovers (1983), the artist clarifies that art is not about wealth or money, but about the sensual feelings that arise from everyday encounters. The content of this sculpture is given by how people behave and interact with each other. Technically, the surface subtlety of these cast bronze figures simulates a sensibility where viewers are able to feel the same time and space. Liu’s audience is not excluded from these configurations. Rather they are united in relation to each other. Art takes them to another world where one can feel the softness and delicacy of human interaction during everyday events.

Boatmen on the Yellow River, 1990

In any case, Liu’s sculptures depict the meaning of everyday life in simple terms, for example, Boating on the Yellow River series. The differences in how the figures intertwine are again magical, but magical in a different way. Someone who wants to fly. in Boating series, the figures are acting in motion rather than deliberately posing within the dream. Liu captures both in a completely remarkable way. It is his manner, his style, and his relationship with the casting of these almost symbolic forms.

In his own words, his view is expressed as “the value and meaning of our existence. . . comes from others, from our relationships with others.” Yet, Liu’s detailed method of work is rarely, if ever, shared with others. In a more generalized way, he describes the following: “Chinese methods respect spontaneity, but also emphasize regularity. You have to look closely and imprint things in your memory, but when you start, you can’t be a stickler, you just have to let go.

A wooden raft on the Yangtze River, 2004

Many of his senior colleagues and professors in the sculpture department at CAFA were impressed by Liu’s willingness to go against the grain, find his own way, and speak in openly honest terms. However, he was forced to face disaster. There was no doubt: his work did not fit as many other students. He was on his own way. As one of his colleagues candidly expressed: “Like it or not like Liu Shiming. There was no one in between.” Even after carefully explaining his main means of becoming an artist, there were those who saw his work only in political terms. no Political. He later explained that what convinced him to model working-class figures came years earlier when he first encountered figurative ceramics made in the Han Dynasty.

This suggests an important aspect of art, namely that art has the ability to inspire the viewer. In fact, Liu Shiming was inspired by a sculpture made almost two centuries earlier, which led him to become an artist. This is what some critics have said Beauty experience. In other words, the audience becomes one with the art. Fusion takes place. Liu Shiming’s initial source of inspiration was the work itself—the realization of sculpture—which eventually led him to inspire others. Wm

Robert C. Morgan

Robert C. Morgan Is an academic, art historian, critic, poet and artist. Well versed in the history and aesthetics of both Western and Asian art, Morgan has lectured widely, authored hundreds of critical essays (translated into twenty languages), published monographs and books, and curated numerous exhibitions. For which he has written reviews Art in America, Art, Arts News, Art Press(Paris), Sculpture magazine, Brooklyn Railand Hyperallergic. Her catalog essays have been published by Gagosian, Pace, Speron Westwater, Van Doren Waxter, White Cube (London), Kukje (Seoul), Malingu (Hong Kong), and Ink Studio (Beijing). Since 2010, he has been editor of New York Asian Art News and World Sculpture News, both published in Hong Kong. He teaches in the graduate fine arts program As an adjunct professor at Pratt Institute and in the School of Visual Arts.

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