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Chenyang Liu on Being an Artist in China & Finding Freedom in Art

Chenyang Liu is a prominent contemporary artist from China. She Graduated from Oil Painting Department of Guangxi Arts Institute in 2007. While still an undergraduate student, Chenyang Liu had her first solo exhibition in the US. Her paintings, which mostly portray young women, are a beautiful mix of traditional and modern styles and have their own unique identity. Her use of colour is beautiful and throughout her career, she has produced some truly gorgeous and vibrant works of art. Chenyang Liu's outstanding skills and technique have allowed her to create a stunning body of work which has been showcased in numerous exhibitions in China, US and Germany.

Could you tell us about your childhood? We would love to know things like what was it like growing up in your hometown and if your interest in painting developed when you were a child?

When I was a child I liked painting and often copied small animals. When I was four years old, my family got a white kitten. Raising it was very special which is why I liked to draw small animals. At the age of six I started doing art classes, which I attended every Saturday, and have been painting since then to the present day.

La Naissance Du Jour, 80×100cm,Acrylic on Canvas, 2017

You studied at the Guangxi Arts Institute in the city of Nanning, what was your experience like studying there?

At the Guangxi Art Institute I learned the basic knowledge of oil painting, painting techniques have greatly improved. I also really liked to stay in the library and read. I feel that having a solid foundation of painting is very important and for this I need to practice every day without interruption.

Peace & Love, Acrylic on Canvas, 2017

Can you tell us what’s it like being an artist in modern day China?

Today, the young Chinese artists put an emphasis on other things and are clearly different to the previous generation of artists. They display different characteristics when it comes to their involvement in the creation of the angle and the form of their works. They are more obsessed with their experience and providing insight into the social life in China, a kind of personal survival through art. They are attracted to showing the ever-changing social life and highlighting that the modern soul is divided and is in a wandering state. It is also more common for young artists to lack interest in high and obscure artistic and philosophical issues, but rather focus on the performance of present life. The new generation of artists tend to have a tired attitude towards the established order and are more focused on the perceptual experience and building their own spiritual dimension independently.

It Was a Dream, Acrylic on Canvas,2016

We would also love to know more about practical things like, how easy it is to get art supplies where you live, their cost? Also, how big is your studio space and is it expensive to have a one?

I live have a half hour drive from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts where there are a lot of art shops, which is quite convenient. You can also buy pigments and frames online. My studio is in our home on the second floor and is about 40 square meters - not too big, but enough to paint. There is currently no plan to set up another studio outside.

Sunny Gifts,Acrylic on Canvas,2017

Since you graduated from Guangxi Arts Institute, how much gallery support have you received. Do you have to be a student from an art school only to receive support from galleries and for them to exhibit your work?

While I was still an undergraduate, a gallery in the United States gave me a solo exhibition. After graduation, I got the support of three or four galleries in Beijing. I think that as long as the works are excellent and there is continuous creativity, the gallery will consider showing your work.

Brave New World, Acrylic on Canvas, 2017

Could you talk us through the process of what happens when you pick up the brush and start painting?

I always start with a certain mood and a hue in mind for the picture. I pick up the brush and first paint the whole canvas with a color. Then, I start planning the entire composition. I hope that in the process of painting each stage can remain sober, have control over the process but with letting a rare chance of an accident.

We'll Dance, Acrylic on Canvas, 2017

Many of your vibrant paintings feature young women and girls. Can you tell us what this theme means to you and why it’s important for you to depict female figures in your art?

Women appear often in my paintings, but I hope they are not weak or timid but full of courage, there is a strong force in the fight against the fate. I particularly want to paint modern women with a mysterious feel and full of sense of ceremony. Also, through my work I want to to explore hope and despair, life and death, light and dark, reality and illusion.

Practice, Acrylic on Canvas,2017

The colours you use in your paintings are beautiful and the way you combine them is very unique. Does it involve a lot of testing to achieve such gorgeous colour combinations?

Yes, it takes years of color practice and I often need to look at other artists' paintings and learn from them.

The Blossom Bowstring,Acrylic on Canvas,2017

Why do you think you enjoy the process of painting so much?

I use color and image to create a picture, the picture with a little bit of color does not meet the reality of the plot, light and shadow. With the use of the brush, which makes me completely immersed, I find my own freedom.

Glimmer, Acrylic on Canvas,2017

Could you tell us about your influences and inspirations?

My works are deeply influenced by Western expressionist painting, Chinese traditional ink painting and Japanese Ukiyo-e painting. I particularly like the Chinese ink paintings.

Can you share with us your dreams for the future? Do you have any goals that you would like to achieve with your art?

I have just done my solo exhibition in Guangzhou, "Glimmer", I hope in the near future I can have a new solo exhibition. I also hope that my paintings get better and better in the future.

What is your idea of happiness?

Happiness is practical work, which means I can draw every day.

What would you like to say to your 16 old self?

Thank me at the age of 16 for having seen and read a lot of novels, no intermittent painting. I am grateful for the good times of that time.

What are you currently working on?

The current state is to send my child to the kindergarten every morning and then start the day's work. Painting, reading… Make efforts to prepare for the next solo exhibition.

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