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LIÚ, Yung Jen 劉永仁



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in an “Aesthetic of Multiplicity”

by Claudio Cerritelli

Art Critic and Professor at Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera di Milano, Italy

Liu Yung-jen belongs to that generation of young Asian artists who have had the sensibility to transform their encounter with the Western artistic milieu into a feast of pictorial creativity, rich with evocative chromatic refinement.


An initial involvement with large-scale landscape-painting has proved to be the precondition of his liberation from traditional representational schematization, leading to the direct experience of boundless space in the pure presence of color; his is a physical and mental dimension in which color can create a luminous rhythm, the very pulsation of breathing informing each picture’s surface without interruption.


Such grand stretches of solar luminosity are rare indeed in a young artist, explicable only in terms of a conception which equates use of color with deep meditation, inner synthesis of every possible form of outward expression.


In each of the paintings presented in this show, one is struck by Liu’s ability to lead his viewers beyond the real, to push them “out of bounds”, to open up vistas of a spatial dimension far exceeding what one would expect from the circumscribed canvas.


In this sense his work has gone beyond being “no longer naturalistic”; it aspires to a lyrical, visionary status, identifying itself with wich the perception of an “elsewhere” whose horizons are forever receding, an image generated by endlessly germinating light.


The picture must thus be seen as a threshold on which each color is constantly being reborn, exploding every which way while maintaining an intimate need for pause, interval, the reflected image. There is, in fact, alongside the physical aspect of the chromatic gesture, the will to construct space in a mental sense through the use of monochromatic light (from white to indigo), values of luminosity capable of filtering in a transparent fashion the chromatic weight of the vision.

In the most recent group of works, there is a recurring formal element: a speck of color somehow opening up even while it closes in on itself,  a nearly elliptical nucleus taking up a good part of the surrounding space by drawing it into itself with a fluid motion. This region of intensity is set off by ample and essential strokes which dominate the surface through a rapid materialization that constructs and, at the same time, occults a primordial idea of Nature.


In this faraway memory of the landscape, the meditative and the active components enter into a most fruitful and vibrant dialogue, declaring themselves by turns while straining to the utmost degree towards the transfiguration of color in the undisputed predominance of light.


It is clear, then, that, apart from the indubitable gifts which are his cultural heritage, a painter such as Liú has compared side by side, as it were, his own refined visual elegance to non-figurative European painting, an art-form still shuttling between the abstract and the informal. From these references, the artist has absorbed the idea of pure pictorial germination, of luminous profundities rich with events, of complex conduct on the part of the materials, of unstable impulses that never allow one to define the color’s space in a formula or with a perceptual model.


If one observes certain of the pictures addressed to variations of blue and white, one may become aware of manifold movements along the surface, brush-strokes that dart like arrows in contrasting directions; these markings spring from the shades with which the artist constructed his elusive and ambiguous space, creating it from the juxtaposition and interaction of brief and immediate touches of color.


Particularly effective, for example, is a series of seven small canvasses playing on variations of blue interrupted by a central point dedicated to red. We are in the presence of constantly changing repetitions of the same impulse, crossing the visible and invisible space of light, here sinking into the blue depths, there reemerging with intense luminosity.


On the other hand, when Liú entrust himself to more explicit hues, as in some of the pieces dedicated to explosions of yellow, the image assumes a profoundly solar identity in which form is indistinguishable and all that remains are fluid traces of an airy, impalpable substance, like that of the wavery, vibrant light dancing before our eyes on a shadowless day.


Quite another density is evidenced in those magnificent compositions in which a keen awareness of the ink unfold in an intense turbulence of white and black, these two absolute values of luminosity which become, for Liú the extreme awareness of painting itself. In the consummate synthesis of black, we sense a power to deal with every single detail of the energy gushing forth through the ink with which the brush covers and reveals the surface in ways unforeseeable yet readily followable. In these works, the painter chases down the byways of memory after the essential data of his original spirit-vision, those particular qualities that make painting an exercise in amplifying space with ever-shifting rhythms able to restore to the observer that fundamental palpitation, that vital sense of light that the true painter holds ever suspended twixt the visible and the invisible.


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