“I like different stuff and I love painting for sure. When I paint, is the time I think and observe, neither the pictures from art history nor questions from art history arise. I am looking at the pictures created by the younger generation and thinking about the words and questions that refer to art of the younger generation.
Our current art has too many “-isms”, too many styles, but few with true attitudes or the personalities of authors. Therefore, whenever I paint, it is not because I cleared my mind, but because I wanted to paint. So, when I want to paint, choice of medium, painting method and final expressions, all of these are based on my “want-to-paint” attitude.
Just because this irrepressible desire promotes me to express and release emotions which I needed the most. As an important factor about art expression nowadays, it is not about becoming good or bad, but whether you like it or not. This is an extreme personal perspective, and also an extremely rare personality and true attitude we need in our current artworks. ”
When the days of artistic passion and idealistic spirit were recalled between 1980s and the beginning of 1990s, there were always groups of young art students who persevered their artistic ideals with no blind chasing of trends or commercialization of art. They devoted themselves to abstract artistic language research through quiet diligence and made great contributions to abstract art education in China. Professor Liu Gang, the current Director of Fifth Studio at School of Oil Painting at the Central Academy of Fine Arts is one of them.
As the youngest child of his teachers’ family, Liu Gang learned Nanquan (Southern style of boxing) from childhood and this brought him rapid reactions and great physical fitness. When he was little, he loved painting in his spare time and became a local ”celebrity”. He studied decorative design in summer school and supported by himself with what he had learned.
The famous “Oil Painting Exhibition and Symposium” in Chinese art history was held in Huangshan, Anhui Province, 1985. It was an unprecedented event in places with poor creativity on oil painting like Anhui. The exhibition was held on time, comparing it to the Su-style, Liu Gang was deeply affected by the western modern and fashion culture and thoughts at that time, his artworks were also affected by expressionism painting. A brand-new way of personal artistic expression was presented when he stepped on the stage of art. There’s always a dream in Liu Gang’s mind, China Central Academy of Fine Arts(abbr. CAFA), the sanctuary of art is in his heart.
It was a rapid-developing and active period of Chinese art trends between 1985 and 1989. Western modernism painting and postmodernism art trends flooded into China and led an artistic booming. CAFA that conformed to the times and established the Fourth Studio focusing on research of Chinese modern paintings. Liu Gang got enrolled in CAFA through great effort and he also stepped into an important phase of shaping his self-artistic expressive characteristics and perspectives. He had rich social and working experience which made him more mature and helped him to determine a special direction in research. During this period of time, he had become one of the most passionate and creative students in his school with his rich and vibrant artistic creations.
At an early stage, Liu Gang always tried to use materials in his creations and gained perceptual experience in material using. He enriched his knowledge in the material medium language research after he studied in CAFA. In May 1989, Liu Gang’s artwork “Trace” was selected for the 7th National Art Exhibition.
Liu Gang graduated from China Central Academy of Fine Arts and started teaching in the Fourth Studio from 1991. He insisted on his original research and creation direction. His artworks “The Parallel Metal” and “Biennial Exhibition of Chinese Oil Painting” were awarded grand prizes and collected by the National Art Museum of China.
Liu Gang’s abstract artworks with concepts and industrial-comprehensive-material language, were created between the 1980s and 1990s, they contain connotative and critical meanings. His artworks between 2008 and 2012, for example, “2004 Black and White”, “9600 Black and White”, were created by the most advanced technology from Apple cellphones, with properties of low density, high strength, bend resistance, fatigue resistance, solid, non-toxic, no smell, pure milky white or black high-crystalized polymer.
Besides, Liu Gang has successfully “escaped” from creative subjects. He is not a craftsman who was restrained in outstanding techniques, but completely, unscratched and escaped from the techniques. In the artwork, the concept “Me” is gone. The artwork formed a structure of continuous inner duplication and reproduction without concepts of “You” and “Me”: a completely free, material abstract world.
Nowadays, the teaching team led by Liu Gang has developed themselves in research and abstract art education, with the goal of establishing a Chinese abstract visual education system, insisting on the learning and research in abstract art by using creativity, diversity, to instruct students to finish and form their own ways of learning and research in abstract art by using scientific models of teaching from the basics. Liu Gang always mentions and compares to the title of “artist”, “teacher” is what he prefers. In his opinion, the primary assignment is to be a good teacher. Since he teaches in CAFA, he observes, thinks and speaks most of the time. What he observes is the works of young students, what he thinks about is the communication between him and the students. There are a variety of art styles, as Liu Gang said, but few with attitudes or personalities. He encourages his students to create artworks bypass the boundaries of different fields and express their artistic attitudes and personalities at the same time. By this method of creation and research process, a clear direction of material selection, practice implementation and final expression shall be introduced. And these ways of expression, are the most valuable attitude among all artistic styles.
Abstracted from Keep the Faith, Pursue the Artistic Sanctuary of Spirit by Professor Zhang Xiaoling, edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO
About Liu Gang
Professor of China Central Academy of Fine Arts, PhD supervisor;
Director of the 5th Studio of the Oil Painting Department, China Central Academy of Fine Arts;
Secretary General of the China Central Academy of Fine Art Education Development Foundation;
Director of International College, China Central Academy of Fine Arts.
2019 Non-Objective Art Invitation Exhibition, Weihai, China
2019 Study House: Chinese Contemporary Art Exhibition, Stockholm Chinese Cultural Center, China.
2018 Yue Art Gallery “In the Name of Abstraction: Fusion”, Beijing, China.
2018 Phoenix Art Exhibition, China Contemporary Oil Painting Academic Exhibition, Phoenix Ancient Town, Xiangxi, China.
2018 Abstract: Non-figurative Painting Exhibition of Contemporary China, at China Spirit: The Forth China Oil Painting Exhibition, Wuhan, China.
2016 The First Emei Contemporary Art International Invitational Exhibition “Working Together, Both Inside and Outside”, Emei, China.
2015 National Customs, Chinese Contemporary Artistic Works World Tour Exhibition, China, France, Sweden, Russia, etc.
2015 China-Triumph Art Gallery “Formal Utopia”, Beijing, China.
2014 Appreciating China: 60 Years of Chinese Oil Painting, UNESCO, Paris, France.
2013 New Abstraction: Oil Painting Exhibition by Invitation, Wuxi, China.
2013 National Customs: The First Oil Painting Exhibition at Imperial College, Dadu Museum of Arts, Beijing, China.
2012 Starting from Modern Era: Fifteen Expressions of Fifteen Artists, National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China;
2011 Great Abstract in Heaven: Chinese Art in the 21st Century Exhibition, Minnesota University, USA and Rome Contemporary Art Gallery, Italy.
2010 Great Form is Beyond Shape: Abstract Arts Exhibition “1547”, Chinese Art Gallery, Beijing, China.
2008 Expansion and Integration: Chinese Modern Oil Painting Research Exhibition “Twin series”, National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China.
2001 International Art Exhibition, Genoa, Italy.
2001 Chinese Model Art Exhibition, Cairo, Egypt.
1999 Exhibition of Works on Paper, China Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing, China.
1998 Exhibition of Professors of China Central Academy of Fine Arts, Hong Kong, China.
1997 La Biennale di Venezia, Venice, Italy.
1996 The first term China oil painting exhibition, National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China.
1995 Oil painting Flow, collected by National Art Museum of China.
1995 Oil painting “Vestige” was exhibited and collected in the Third China Oil Painting Exhibition.
1993 Oil painting “Parallel Metal” received grand award and was exhibited and collected in the
First China Oil Painting Biennial.
1991 Horizontal and Vertical, National Art Museum of China, Beijing China;
1991 The First China Oil painting Annual Exhibition "Two Different Directions"
1989 The Seventh China National Art Exhibition “Relic”
2020 Solo Exhibition of Liu Gang, Hive Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing, China.
2019-2020 Liu Gang: Fission of Order, Chun Art Museum, Shanghai, China.
2019 Significant Color: Liu Gang, lia art space, Shenzhen, China.
2017 New Beijing Gallery “61907102”, Beijing, China
1990 Solo Exhibition at the Gallery of China Central Academy of Fine Arrts.
2017 The Best Abstract Art Award, Phoenix Art Exhibition, Phoenix Ancient Town, Xiangxi, China
Courtesy of the Artist