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Liu Dan

Chinese Painter

Born: 1953 - Nanjing, Jiangsu, China

Liu Dan Timeline

Quotes

"To me, this kind of exploratory, preparatory drawing - the real moment of creativity - is like a private conversation between him and what you might call his God, while the finished painting is something made for the public"
Liu Dan
"Ink chose me. After hours practicing calligraphy with my grandfather, the brush felt almost like an extension of my hand."
Liu Dan
"I love this language of ink. One of the reasons is that it is created organically by a group of people - the papermaking master, the brush master and the maker of the ink. Every element is related, every element important. An artist is not just an ego, a name. You cannot impose your will on these materials. It is a negotiation."
Liu Dan
"I love both manners and always try to keep the two with me. In my life, I always try to bring these two legacies together; to have them reflect and complement each other. I think that is one goal in my life."
Liu Dan
"To me, each art piece, I have to find more in the personal level to inspire me to create. So that's the kind of intimate relationship I'm looking for. It's not just normal knowledge. It's not something people already know. I'm looking for the areas unknown to people, which you need artists to bring out that part."
Liu Dan
"We need, and because we saw the things - this table, this chair - we found a different way to show maybe this is not a table, this is not a chair, it's more than that."
Liu Dan
"A small object is enlarged to an exaggerated scale to give an ordinary object monumental attention and status. Unlike Pop Art, this work portrays an institutionalized and cultural memory, not a fleeting societal icon."
Liu Dan
"People have asked me, 'What's the difference between me and the Old Masters?' I always answer them, 'I don't think there is any difference except that they are dead and I am still alive'. On the other hand, because I'm still alive, they are alive too."
Liu Dan

"Creation is not merely an interesting idea. It is soul."

Synopsis

Viewing a retrospective exhibition of paintings by Liu Dan might appear more like an international group show than the work of a single artist, as he effortlessly manoeuvres between numerous artistic styles and genres. Born in China, it was during the Cultural Revolution that the artist was first exposed to the work of Western artists in photographs taken by his friend of confiscated books. Intrigued by the images, Liu fastidiously copied the reproductions of Renaissance era drawings, even before Liu received any formal training in traditional Chinese painting techniques. This dichotomy of influences would take the artist in many different directions, from a modernist twist on traditional Chinese monochromatic landscape painting to a nearly photorealistic style of watercolor paintings of common, everyday objects. Driving this exploration, Liu was searching for a new discourse that could be both individual and unique, incorporating both the Eastern and Western artistic legacies he admired. Yet despite the variety of artistic styles, Liu's artistic and philosophical goals remained consistent, as he sought to surpass superficial issues of style and instead capture the true essence of his subject.

Key Ideas

Liu Dan's painting style is not readily confined to any pre-existing category. Instead, the artist synthesizes influences from traditions normally held in opposition, the linear realism of traditional Western drawing and calligraphic legacy of Chinese ink painting. In doing so, Liu not only revitalizes the historic traditions of guohua, or native painting, but invents a distinctly contemporary manifestation of ink painting.
Among his most acclaimed works are his intricate depictions of scholar-stones, based on a meditative and intense observation of the object. Liu describes the process as a "micro exploration through macro understanding." They are both scientific and spiritual, rendered in meticulous detail while embodying the Daoist principles of yin and yang energies, described by Chinese scholar Ah Cheng as "an open exploration of the connection between mind and Dao. Scholar's rocks are considered the quintessential expression of these two concepts."
Coming of age during the era of the Cultural Revolution had deep psychological effects on Liu Dan, who has since described his pursuit of "true knowledge" as a core element of his artistic practice. This manifests most concretely in his monumentally scaled painting of a simple, timeworn Chinese dictionary published before the revolution took place. However, this passion is also evident in his continuous exploration of both style and subject, as he searches for the poetic space between what he describes as the realistic and abstract, or the rational and irrational, where the artist believes this truth exists.

Biography

Liu Dan Photo

Childhood

Liu Dan was born in 1953 in regional capital city of Nanjing, literally translating to the "Southern Capital," in the Jiangsu province of China. Liu's paternal ancestors were part of the wealthy scholar-official class during the Qing dynasty (1644-1912). The family later fell from their elevated position during the 19th century when the artist's great grandfather, who became addicted to opium, wasted the family's fortune and lost their standing in the Imperial court. Liu grew up with his parents, both teachers, three siblings, and his grandfather who instilled in the young boy a respect for China's cultural past, even while this legacy was actively suppressed in the socialist schools Liu attended.

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Liu Dan Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Liu Dan
Interactive chart with Liu Dan's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Leonardo da VinciLeonardo da Vinci
RaphaelRaphael
MichelangeloMichelangelo
Albrecht DürerAlbrecht Dürer
Georgia O'KeeffeGeorgia O'Keeffe

Personal Contacts

Ya Ming

Movements

RenaissanceRenaissance
Classical Chinese painting

Influences on Artist
Liu Dan
Liu Dan
Years Worked: 1978 - present
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Personal Contacts

Movements


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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Sarah Frances Dias

Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Molly Enholm

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Sarah Frances Dias
Edited and revised, with Synopsis and Key Ideas added by Molly Enholm
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