The Santa Fe New Mexican article on Hung Liu Turner Carroll exhibition describes how she grew up in China under the harsh rule of Mao. She labored in the fields, along with the women she paints. Her goal is to give these women lives unlike the lives they led in reality. She gives them lives of beauty fit for an empress. Liu layers paint upon gold leaf and resin layers, creating a regal portrait of women who were regal in their spirits, if not their realities. She does this in order to show the sanctity of each human spirit, and to illustrate the fact that all people are the same, no matter what class to which they are born. Such is the case with Liu’s work throughout her career, from her earliest paintings created in China to the most recent works she has painted and which hang in numerous prestigious museum collections in the United States.
The woman in Hung Liu’s painting Equus III isn’t looking at the viewer. Under thick black bangs, her gaze lifts off to the side. One corner of her mouth is pulled back, as though she’s unnerved, if barely. The woman is surrounded and overlaid by loosely sketched soldiers on horseback, a silver fish, a waterlily, and Liu’s characteristic incessant circles and paint drips, achieved by thinning the pigment with linseed oil. With its beautiful young woman and with flowing brushwork that looks, from a few feet back, like a gold-woven tapestry, Equus III could easily be misconstrued — and dismissed — as decorative, pretty. But Liu’s aesthetic is in the service of narrative: her work is deeply rooted in cultural history and personal experience.
New paintings by Liu are included in a show at Turner Carroll Gallery called Survival, which opens Friday, Aug. 1. Survival features five other artists and is described by the gallery as “artwork by well-known artists who lived under regimes not appreciative of their efforts.”
- Adele Oliveira