Lui Liu: Surreal Daydreams of the Female Figure

”I see the history of civilization as a feminine one, not a masculine one. It’s not heroic but humorous”.

His paintings are a projection of his visions of modern society, showing a dichotomy of bold and confronting realism and qualities that lend to a surreal and dreamlike interpretation. We caught up with Chinese born artist Lui Liu, for a refreshingly frank and honest discussion on his practice and creative life.


When did your creative life begin? Has art always been your path?

I was not a good student growing up. I found that I earned friends when I showed off my drawing skills and that encouraged me. I also did street posters during the Cultural Revolution.

200908_b Later on I was enrolled into the Central Academy of Fine Arts. After graduation, I worked drawing illustrations for a magazine but along the way, I never stopped doing my own work. In the early 90s, I landed in Canada and began life as a professional artist.

Do you have a mentor or an idol artistically?

Napoleon was an artist in the military; Einstein was an artist in physics. Those are the inspiring friends I look up to. Artists in my own field?  They would block my way if I were to idolize them.


Where is your favorite place in the world and why?

My favorite place is always where my home is. First that was China, then Canada and China again for now. At my studio I do my day-dreaming. I’ve been to other places but I didn’t get to set up a studio or make friends.


What has been your most significant achievement or proudest moment as an artist?

I cannot name any particular event that made me feel the proudest. My sense of achievement comes from when I show my work to friends around me and their eyes light up. I know more people will be entertained after that but by then I have already moved on to do new works.


Have you got any other great passions besides art?

Mostly my passion lies in art because art comes from my passion. Other then that, I love reading and writing. I also love playing pool.


Do you have a studio space?

My studio is about 900 sq. ft with a high ceiling of 18ft, with a sky light of course. I have an iron easel that can be moved vertically and horizontally by a remote control. I work sitting or standing on a lift table that is also remote controlled. The windows are high, so I don’t have a view to distract me. It helps me to concentrate but is not good for my eye sight.

r_207_01_bThe pool table room is next to my studio. So I go there to play pool and to look outside. But all I can see is boring buildings. At night though, I can get some interesting scenes through binoculars.


Do you have an underlying message or theme that you carry throughout your practice?

I see the history of civilization as a feminine one, not a masculine one. It’s not heroic but humorous. These are the messages or themes that exist in my mind visually and present themselves through my works. As an artist, I don’t rely on my dreams. I day-dream.

201303_b Art exists because of our collective dreams. People appreciate my art when they feel a sense of deja vu in front of my works.


If you weren’t an artist, what do you see yourself doing instead?

I’d be a stand-up comedian. Or I would study mathematics.

What is your greatest dream as an artist?

I want to write the best novel in Chinese literature.


Do you have a favorite piece or series that is closest to your heart?

If I have to name one, it would be the theme song of “The Pink Panther” by Henry Mancini.


Where did you grow up? How is creativity embraced and expressed in the culture that you grew up in?

I grew up in China where people like to say: art comes from life and it rises above life. It means, as an artist, you need to create through your life experiences, and then your art works should be able to guide your experience in life. It’s the guiding part that I have a problem with.

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