Dimensions: 12.75 x 17″
Media: oil on canvas
Hung Liu–Nanking 1 joins Nanking 2 in portraying a young girl surrounded by destruction. The color black in most cultures is associated with death, destruction, and evil, and this association is even more prominent in Chinese culture. In this piece, Hung Liu uses harsh black strokes to demonstrate the darkness in the history of Nanking. In 1937, Japanese forces captured the city of Nanking, in China, and committed such heinous acts that the event is now known as the Nanjing Massacre or the Rape of Nanjing. The girl in this piece, dressed in all white–to symbolize death and ghosts–is surrounded by the cruelty around her. The circles that appear throughout the painting are in a great number of Hung Liu’s works, portraying both the termination of the painting–in Chinese, sentences are ended with open circles as periods–and the concept of infinity and an eternal, interconnected existence.
Hung Liu grew up in China during Mao’s Cultural Revolution, working as a laborer in the wheat and rice fields for four years, with only one day off per year as part of her “re-education.” During this time during the Cultural Revolution, Hung Liu painted in secret; her “My Secret Freedom” watercolor landscapes are on exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Hung Liu attended the Central Academy of Art in Beijing along with Chinese contemporary artist, Ai Wei Wei, among others. Following this, she applied to UC San Diego to study with Alan Kaprow, originator of Happenings in the U.S. Though she had to defer her acceptance for four years while repeatedly being denied a passport by the Chinese government, she ultimately made it to the United States, leaving behind a two year old son and her mother in pursuit of her art. Liu arrived in the U.S. with only $20 and two suitcases. Her trajectory quickly skyrocketed, however, and her works began to be snatched up by major U.S. museums and collectors. Now, Hung Liu’s magnificent works are included in over 40 major museum collections in the U.S., from the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art to the Los Angeles County Museum, and all major museums in between.