Hung Liu. Temporary Art
Hung Liu’s lost mural Music of the Great Earth (1981) is widely remembered by artists who ate and studied beneath it in the dining hall at China’s Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, where in 1979 Liu had begun graduate studies in mural painting.1 Inspired by ancient bronze bells that archeologists famously unearthed in the tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng a few years prior, Liu experimented stylistically with line and eliminating space and depth. In the early days of a post-revolution cultural shift, the artist’s exploration of formalism “was a rebellion of sorts against socialist realism.”2 But rather than paint in a Western style, Liu looked to the contoured lines and abstract symbols of Buddhist wall paintings in the caves at Dunhuang. Later, the Central Academy of Fine Arts moved; the building was torn down and her mural demolished. For Liu, the destruction illuminated her sense of art’s impermanence: “I think all art has this aspect of temporariness. It all depends on how you look at it. Fifty years could be just the blink of an eye or it could be the longest time. So the paintings I make are a kind of record—a record of a practice, of a process.”3 After a twenty-five-year hiatus from mural painting, in 2013 Liu painted Silver River at the San José Museum of Art, an ephemeral gallery-length wall painting on the fleetingness of life.
Wu Hung, “Tai Cang: Recomposing History and Remembrance,” in Hung Liu: Great Granary, ed. Wu Hung and Jeff Kelley (Hong Kong: Timezone 8, 2010), 22–23. ↩︎
Hung Liu, “Sixty Years on a Hard Journey for Art: A Conversation between Hung Liu and Wu Hung,” in Hung Liu: Great Granary, eds. Wu Hong and Jeff Kelley (Hong Kong: Timezone 8, 2010), 85. ↩︎
Hung Liu, “Sixty Years on a Hard Journey for Art: A Conversation between Hung Liu and Wu Hung,” in Hung Liu: Great Granary, eds. Wu Hong and Jeff Kelley (Hong Kong: Timezone 8, 2010), 95–96. ↩︎