Liu Ye's quixotic paintings are an extraordinary amalgam of imaginative reality. They possess a distinctly unique style, subtly reference "pulp noir" and pay homage to classical Chinese landscape tradition. His aesthetic is born from the reality of his own experience of growing up during China's Cultural Revolution as the son of an author and illustrator of children's books. Through his depiction of seemingly cute, cartoon-like characters, placed in fantastical monochromatic backgrounds, Ye is able to rearrange childhood memories into different contexts to create a sort of fantasy world for the viewer to experience. His father was an author and illustrator of children's books, whose own ambitions were thwarted by Mao Zedong's policy of forcing intellectuals to do manual labor. As books were banned under China's repressive regime, Ye's father was compelled hide books in a black chest under his bed, which Ye was forbidden to open. Nonetheless Ye would gain access to the books; the images and texts would fuel the direction of his unique pictorial language.
In The Long Way Home, Ye deftly parlays nostalgia with social commentary, and therefore, the painting is rife with visual paradox. The dusty twighlight blue which bathes the canvas paired with the title, suggest a grueling plight for the protagonists on the canvas. The stoic figures, whose social status is evidenced by the patches on their clothing, appear complacent in their journey. Interestingly, however, the little girl, in a gentle rose jacket, is the only figure which fully confronts the viewer. It is this innocent defiance that makes the portrait that much more endearing as she indeed exemplifies a more optimistic future. When asked about the characters in these works, Liu responds with "it's more about maybe love, about what's inside these people. The title deals with travel, but it's not really about travel." (Liu Ye as quoted in Katy Donoghue, "Liu Ye: Leave Me in the Dark," Whitewallmag.com, November 23, 2009, n.p.)
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