Liu Cheng Mui
20/2/2021 - 17/4/2021
Liu Cheng Mui is a renowned Hong Kong artist. She first received education at the Central Academy of Fine Arts and furthered her studies in the former Soviet Union. Combining figurative and expressive approaches in her works, she paints realistic and meticulous figures, animals and still-lifes against colourful backdrop with carefree brushstrokes, resulting in a striking and intriguing visual impact of merging both movement and stillness. The exhibition showcases over 40 paintings created since 2008, in which 10 are this year’s latest works. They reveal her feeling towards life during different periods of time and invite audience into her world of mystery.
The Art of Liu Cheng Mui
In general, there are three approaches to painting: figurative, expressive, and abstract. Liu Cheng Mui combines the first two in her works where she represents forms that are recognizable yet at the same time, leaving room for her viewers to imagine and ponder on her implicit messages. Although quite a number of artists exhibit similar styles, Liu establishes her unique style by conveying through colours the figurative and expressive.
The artist’s mastery of colours is consistently observed among various themes. Not only does Liu create scenes of different time and space, but she also renders her subjects in a snapshot-like manner; whether the subject is a human being or an animal, or it is under water or on the ground. Since her content is not completely realistic, parts of her paintings resemble an out-of-focus photograph, adding a surrealistic touch.
While Liu excels in portraying the human body, she gives precedence to accentuating body curvatures and skin textures rather than depicting face profiles or facial expressions. Her brush flows so smoothly that it swirls colours into a dance, imbuing the paintings with sharp contrasts of light and shadow, and animating her protagonists who are dancing in various poses. Even if there is no movement, they still come to life by simply standing, sitting or just reclining; the deprivation of poses does not eschew any of their radiant energy. The proportions of their bodies are realistic but their colours are not necessarily so. They confront, clash or mix with one another to the extent that they create a mesmerizing visual effect.
Liu does not paint horses nor dogs in an abstract manner, yet their surrounding environments are painted in richness of contrasting colours that verge on the expressive style, prompting viewers to empathise with the state of the animals, whether they appear proud and cold or loyal; these subtle feelings are conveyed through the complexity of the colours.
Liu’s ferry sailing across the harbour is also realistically depicted. Different colours of skies naturally elicit different experiences yet no matter what colour the sky is, a sense of vastness is created, suggesting that the ferry, the star of the harbour, has faded.
There is no empty space in Liu’s artwork. Instead, the artist builds coloured blocks of a variety of shapes to form the backdrop of the main subject. These colours are meant to be supplementary or secondary, yet their multifarious combinations steal the limelight and take over the role of primary colours. Colours manifestly convey the artist’s feelings and whether they are monochrome, duochrome, trichromatic or polychrome, it is undisputed that Liu’s brush marshals and transforms colours into an Edenic world bursting with vibrancy.
YEUNG Chun Tong
Director, Sun Museum
Editor: NGAN Yu Ting
2020, paperback, Chinese/English, 120 pages, 17.5 x 23.5 cm
A fully illustrated exhibition catalogue featuring 52 pieces of paintings by Liu Cheng Mui.