Xiaodong, Liu b.1963 / Green pub 6
about this work
For his first exhibition in the UK, the Lisson Gallery has invited Liu Xiaodong – one of China’s foremost artists and a painter of international stature – to produce a new body of work in London. Over a period of six weeks, Liu documented his encounters with Londoners, much as he has done previously, while living and painting among residents of Tibet, Japan, Italy, Cuba and Israel. Focusing on three local businesses, two pubs and one Middle Eastern coffee shop, Liu produced one near-life size oil on canvas and eight acrylic photo-paintings at each location. 

As part of his direct and conceptual approach to painting, Liu writes and draws in a journal and takes photographs before building a temporary studio in-situ, in order to paint en plein air or ‘xiesheng’ as it is known in Chinese. While each venue, dubbed Green Pub, White Pub and Egyptian Restaurant for the purposes of these paintings, are all within striking distance of one another – hardly more than half a street away from the gallery as per his title– their subjects are distinct in tenor and timbre. Liu’s portraits range from the two couples who run the pubs –who hail variously from American, West Indian, Polish and French backgrounds – to a gesticulating toddler, a dog and a fancy-dress cowboy. The empty upstairs room of the Egyptian restaurant adds further contrast, hinting not only at the space’s alternate use as a meeting room, but at complications encountered in the painting of such cultural sensitive environment, as well as obliquely referencing ongoing political uncertainty in the Middle East. Liu says, “My only goal is to confront people and see them as they really are” and the artist’s immersive method of individual and collective portraiture results in pieces that have participatory and performative dimensions, while their scale often matches that of film making, an activity Liu is well versed in, having previously worked as an actor in Wang Xiaoshuai’s acclaimed The Days (1993), or else as producer and subject of award-winning documentaries about his own practice. Liu’s London residency has been documented by celebrated filmmaker Sophie Fiennes,whose complementary portrait of the artist at work will also be on display in the gallery.

Liu Xiaodong (b.1963, China)

Green pub 6, 2013

Acrylic on C-print
40.5 x 50.5 cm
15 15/16 x 19 7/8 in.
Lisson Gallery, London, UK Current Location:
Hong Kong - BRINK'S HK Works on PaperFar East


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Paul Casciato and Minnie Brookfield / Reuters, London, Painting from life
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