Chinese Art

Liu Yaming’s Individuality

Liu Yaming

Beijing-based artist Liu Yaming (1962– ) was born in Neijiang in the Sichuan province of China. He is best known for his somber, evocative oil paintings of female figures. Liu’s paintings focus on a single female figure, usually looking straight at the viewer without a smile. This moody, mysterious atmosphere is heightened by the hazy backdrops he paints the women in. In this piece, though he uses multiple colors in the background, the pinks, yellows, and blues are murky and painted in almost nebulous shapes. In contrast to the backgrounds, the subjects are painted in exceptional detail, which contributes to a sense of individuality and personality unique to each piece.

Liu Yaming

Liu captures the intricacies of his subjects, allowing seemingly small details such as a raised brow, slight smirk, or delicately placed hands to speak volumes about the subject’s disposition. His refined artistic choices make viewers wonder about the subject’s world: Where is she and who is she? Why is she looking directly at us with such an intense countenance? What is she trying to tell us?

Liu has a remarkable and uncommon sensibility for considering the emotional worlds of his subjects, and his works often contemplate female-related emotional themes. For example, his subjects convey a variety of facial expressions, from serious to assertive to sensual. These are adjectives that some conservative people – especially those in China – may deem unacceptable for females to embody, as women are often expected to be soft, polite, and docile.

To me, Liu’s paintings celebrate his subjects’ beauty with a raw truthfulness and fearlessness; in doing so, he defends the importance of female confidence and strength. Though they are clearly unique – with different facial features, occupations, clothing, and personal lives – all the subjects in these paintings are tied together with a common thread: they all seem unabashedly comfortable being themselves. I see this in their strong, direct stares and solemn expressions, which exude a dignity and poise not often portrayed in the traditional roles Chinese society imposes on women.

What do you think about his work?

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