Go Boating


Materiality over subject and process over result. Here is the philosophy of the artist Liu Jia dong. The relation he maintains with the materiality of his work illustrates how he understands the world and shows us a new reality of his own.

Ten years ago, Liu Jia dong started to be inspired by the western sculpture and especially by the readymades. Just like Marcel Duchamp bought his Bottle Rack, Liu Jia dong found the stools and the basins in a local supermarket in Shanghai. But unlike Duchamp, Dong adds some material on the ready-made objects, and mixed together some paint with plaster, then fixed a brush in the center of each basin. Over the umbrella, he applied a mix of paint and resin so that the object become heavier and gains materiality.

While looking at Liu Jia dong’s paintings, we are tempted to identify the subject represented, however we might be surprised when a face of a person, or a cat is blurry. In fact, for the impressionists the subject was a pretext to study the light, but for Liu Jia dong, the subject is here a pretext to experience the materiality of the tools that he uses: canvas, paints and brushes. The materiality is then more important than the subject represented which explains why the face doesn’t need to be elaborated and why the artist doesn’t need to represent noble subjects but can be satisfied with every day-life matter. In some cases, the canvas has even been left free from any paint.

This non-importance of the subject can also be shown during the process of creation: the artist may even change the subject of his artwork and gives birth to an unexcepted image. For example, the painting representing two hands reaching each other, was originally the image of the gate of the school of Liu Jia dong. During the creation, the artist was stimulated by the painting in process and recognized the central part of the fresco of Michel-Angelo, The Creation of Adam, from the Sistine Chapel. Thus, the final painting shows the mix of different feelings: the memory of his school, then how he felt looking at the painting in process.

Liu Jia dong strives for the materiality of his mediums. During the application of materials onto the object, which can be the canvas or the ready-made objects, the artist enters a phase of freedom, intuition and unexcepted feelings. Just like going boating alone in an unknown sphere.

Marie Crismer

Art historian (University of Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium)

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