Class connotation: Liu Wei’s ’Silver’ at White Cube, Hong Kong
Hong Kong’s current love affair with contemporary Chinese art continues with a freshly unveiled solo exhibition of mirrored sculptures, collage and a ‘shape-shifting’ video by the Beijing-based artist Liu Wei, at the city’s White Cube outpost.
The artist has been producing interesting works for the past 15 years, not least with his sensational Looks Like a Landscape, 2004 – a large-format black and white photograph of what seemed like a traditional Chinese mountain scene but is, in fact, a landscape of naked bottoms. His new show builds upon an exhibition at UCCA Beijing earlier this year with a refined yet unconventional examination of the symbolism of everyday urban materials.
The highlight of the exhibition is Puzzle, an abstract assemblage of enormous organically-shaped mirrors creating an intriguing sculptural enclosure while simultaneously playing with our notions of perception.
On the same ground floor of the gallery are two Crucifixion collages; works that the artist created by draping sheets of steel over delicate metal rods to form an abstract cross-like shape. Liu says he prefers to work with easily available, cheap industrial materials that have a ‘class connotation’. ‘They are natural to this artificial urban environment,’ he explains.
Sharing the same ground floor space is a colourful video work – Shapeshifting – inspired by the neon advertising of urban environments, providing a striking counterpart to the predominantly neutral silver art pieces nearby.
The theme of silver ‘formally orchestrates the whole show’, says Liu. ‘Everything is related to it one-way or the other. It also reflects the colonial history of Hong Kong where silver was even used to buy opium. I don’t claim to be a master of history but my work is a re-imagination of that.’
Upstairs, Liu’s newest works reflect his interest in architecture with thick tactile layers of oil paint applied like rough plaster to a canvas, and a series of three smaller-scale mirrored works placed on ‘found’ furniture.
‘It is the simplicity and straightforwardness of discarded things that interests me,’ he concludes.