Hung Liu – Imperial Garden Study II
Dimensions: 25.25 x 41″ finished size / 25.25 x 41″ unframed
Medium: mixed media on panel
Hung Liu’s Imperial Garden shows a young Chinese prostitute reclining on a bed in an alluring manner surrounded by flowers, with a photograph of the Dowager Empress Cixi being carried by her guards. Juxtaposed is the sheltered Empress, whose guards were required to be castrated to protect her sexual purity, and the concubine, whose sexuality was overtly exploited. This work emphasizes the plight of women across cultures and history, where a virginal nature is prized and protected, yet women are also expected to willingly succumb to the male gaze and sexual desires.
Director, Turner Carroll Gallery
Hung Liu, working with master printer David Salgado, developed a unique method of creating her mixed media works in which she places layers of resin, paint, and metal leaf on panel. This process creates the impression of great depth in her works, as well as a sheen reminiscent of Chinese porcelain. The inspiration for this technique came from her public art installation at the Oakland Airport, titled “Going Away, Coming Home,” where she had the opportunity to paint on glass. She loved the way the sunlight emanated through the translucent layers of paint. This led her to seek the same luminescence in other of her works. These mixed media resin works could be described as illuminated paintings, for multiple reasons. One reason is the fact that these mixed media resin works begin with metal leaf (often gold) on panel, in the same the manner as a Russian icon would be painted. The gold represents the sanctity of the subject; a covering of the natural world (represented by the wooden panel’s surface) with the sacred and pure. Another reason these works can be regarded as “illuminated” is the obvious implication of light emanating from within them as light bounces off the base layer of metal leaf and reflects back through the layers of paint.
Hung Liu’s mixed media resin works are included in numerous important museums throughout the world; among them the San Jose Museum of Art and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, which boasts the largest collection of these works and is curating a comprehensive exhibition and book documenting them. Hung Liu is honored that one of these works was included in the major exhibition “Gold” featuring important artworks throughout the history of art that have included gold leaf, at the Belvedere Museum in Vienna, Austria.
-Tonya Turner Carroll