Hung Liu. History Is a Verb
Working from photographic images of China often taken by outsiders — whether Western tourists or Japanese occupiers—from the nineteenth century onward, Liu “preserve[s] and dissolve[s]”1 histories in her drippy figurative paintings. Looking through documentary photographs, she is often drawn to details that beg questions and move her to explore through painterly abstraction, as in a photograph taken during World War II of three women in the south of China holding makeshift weapons. For Shoah (2006), Liu extracted the three women from the photograph and placed them like heroic warriors against a piece of lush red silk, on top of which the artist printed an enlarged documentary image of a mass grave from the Nanjing Massacre2—the horrific mass murder of Chinese civilians by Japanese troops during Japan’s occupation of China. Liu’s work is both a depiction of a document and a veil of paint, resin, and silk, distilling historical detail while broadening history’s geographic and temporal terms.
Hung Liu, quoted in Bill Berkson, “Hung Liu: Action Painter,” in Summoning Ghosts: The Art of Hung Liu, ed. Rene De Guzman (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013), 128. ↩︎