Animation in ink: Chinese artist Liu Yi’s “Flowing Feast” at ShanghART Singapore

Emerging artist Liu Yi explores themes of the everyday in her first exhibition in Singapore.

Merging traditional ink practices with animation techniques, Liu Yi’s style is delicate and at times surreal.

Liu Yi, 'A Crow Has Been Calling for a Whole Day', 2016, mixed media installation, single channel animation film, 11 minutes 30 seconds, 13 pieces of cotton curtains for screening, 10 from them with paintings, 400 x 158cm (each), Edition of 6 + 2 A.P. Image courtesy ShanghART Gallery and the artist.

Liu Yi, ‘A Crow Has Been Calling for a Whole Day’, 2016, mixed media installation, single channel animation film, 11 minutes 30 seconds, 13 pieces of cotton curtains for screening, 10 from them with paintings, 400 x 158 cm (each), Edition of 6 + 2 A.P. Image courtesy ShanghART Gallery and the artist.

“Flowing Feast”, a solo exhibition of emerging Chinese artist Liu Yi, is on display from 12 May to 13 August 2017 at ShanghART gallery in Singapore’s Gillman Barracks complex. The exhibition presents Liu’s Chinese ink animations and includes her multimedia installations along with the original hand-painted animation stills.

Liu Yi, 'Crow Has Been Calling for a Whole Day 0868', 2016, original painting on hand-made Xuan paper from animation film, 23 x 42cm (unframed). Image courtesy ShanghART Gallery and the artist.

Liu Yi, ‘Crow Has Been Calling for a Whole Day 0868’, 2016, original painting on handmade Xuan paper from animation film, 23 x 42 cm (unframed). Image courtesy ShanghART Gallery and the artist.

Liu is an emerging artist and this is the first time she exhibits in Southeast Asia. Born in 1990, Liu graduated with a Master’s degree from China Academy of Fine Arts (Hangzhou) in 2016. Despite her young age, Liu has already achieved considerable acclaim with exhibitions at Shanghai Museum of Contemporary Art MoCA Art Pavilion (2017), Shanghai ShanghART Group Exhibition (2017), the 3rd Annual Shenzhen Independent Animation Biennale, Shenzhen (2016), Horizon Art Center, Shanghai (2015), The 8th International Ink Art Biennale of Shenzhen (2013) and the 9th and 10th China Independent Film Festival (2012 and 2013).

Liu Yi in her studio. Image courtesy ShanghART Gallery and the artist.

Liu Yi in her studio. Image courtesy ShanghART Gallery and the artist.

Liu Yi, 'Crow Has Been Calling for a Whole Day 0922', 2016, original painting on hand-made Xuan paper from animation film, 23 x 42cm (unframed). Image courtesy ShanghART Gallery and the artist.

Liu Yi, ‘Crow Has Been Calling for a Whole Day 0922’, 2016, original painting on handmade Xuan paper from animation film, 23 x 42 cm (unframed). Image courtesy ShanghART Gallery and the artist.

Liu’s work draws inspiration from China’s early art and film as well as from experimental animation. She works across installation, painting, sculpture and text, pushing the boundaries of the exhibition space. Liu applies traditional cel animation techniques to Chinese ink painting, creating thousands of preparatory pieces. In fact, each frame is painted in Chinese ink and there are 12 frames per second. This fusion of contemporary and traditional art forms creates a unique style that is gradually painted into shape.

Liu Yi, 'Crow Has Been Calling for a Whole Day 1141', 2016, original painting on hand-made Xuan paper from animation film, 23 x 42cm (unframed). Image courtesy ShanghART Gallery and the artist.

Liu Yi, ‘Crow Has Been Calling for a Whole Day 1141’, 2016, original painting on handmade Xuan paper from animation film, 23 x 42 cm (unframed). Image courtesy ShanghART Gallery and the artist.

One of Liu’s animations, A Crow Has Been Calling for A Whole Day, is a travelogue of her trip to India and took almost a full year to complete. The 12-minute film displays everyday life rendered in ink, documenting Liu’s observations of love, desire and death.

Liu Yi, 'Crow Has Been Calling for a Whole Day 0583', 2016, original painting on hand-made Xuan paper from animation film, 23 x 42cm (unframed). Image courtesy ShanghART Gallery and the artist.

Liu Yi, ‘Crow Has Been Calling for a Whole Day 0583’, 2016, original painting on handmade Xuan paper from animation film, 23 x 42 cm (unframed). Image courtesy ShanghART Gallery and the artist.

The ritual of hanging clothes was one of the ordinary occurrences that made an imprint on Liu, as it is something that is done in communities all over the world. This everyday event is replicated in the installation, where her animation is projected onto hanging fabrics in the exhibition space. This creates an environment of shadow and light where overlapping and faintly moving cloth creates an alternative vision that transforms the gallery space. It also encourages viewers to walk through the exhibition space, immersing themselves into another experience of travel.

Liu Yi, 'Crow Has Been Calling for a Whole Day Scroll No. 8', 2016, original painting on hand-made Xuan paper from animation film, 28 x 400cm (unframed). Image courtesy ShanghART Gallery and the artist.

Liu Yi, ‘Crow Has Been Calling for a Whole Day Scroll No. 8’, 2016, original painting on handmade Xuan paper from animation film, 28 x 400 cm (unframed). Image courtesy ShanghART Gallery and the artist.

Liu explains about her work:

Time surpasses the spatial partition, the living conditions of different places in urban cities, the state of nature, the social norms and the potential development of societies. No matter it is an impromptu capture of dynamic memories or a theater scene in the memory, all of them turn into a common living theater.

Liu Yi, 'Crow Has Been Calling for a Whole Day', 2016, original painting on hand-made Xuan paper from animation film, 23 x 42cm (unframed). Image courtesy ShanghART Gallery and the artist.

Liu Yi, ‘Crow Has Been Calling for a Whole Day’, 2016, original painting on handmade Xuan paper from animation film, 23 x 42 cm (unframed). Image courtesy ShanghART Gallery and the artist.

The piece Into the Void also touches upon the everyday, but focuses on the mind-numbing repetition of daily life that consumes our thoughts. As Liu says,

In the void, nothing can be caught by my memories… I can’t concentrate on anything. I contracted the nebula and compressed it as a fireball. After that, it turned into a ‘point’, and then, back to nothing.

A short single-channel ink animation of almost 2 minutes, Into the Void is an exploration of busy modern life that questions the importance society puts on certain concerns over others.

Liu Yi, 'Origin of Species 0416', 2013, original painting on hand-made paper from animation film, 27 x 39cm. Image courtesy ShanghART Gallery and the artist.

Liu Yi, ‘Origin of Species 0416’, 2013, original painting on handmade paper from animation film, 27 x 39 cm. Image courtesy ShanghART Gallery and the artist.

Liu Yi, 'Origin of Species 0756', 2013, original painting on hand-made paper from animation film, 27 x 39cm. Image courtesy ShanghART Gallery and the artist.

Liu Yi, ‘Origin of Species 0756’, 2013, original painting on handmade paper from animation film, 27 x 39 cm. Image courtesy ShanghART Gallery and the artist.

Liu Yi, 'Origin of Species 0863', 2013, original painting on hand-made paper from animation film, 27 x 39cm. Image courtesy ShanghART Gallery and the artist.

Liu Yi, ‘Origin of Species 0863’, 2013, original painting on handmade paper from animation film, 27 x 39 cm. Image courtesy ShanghART Gallery and the artist.

Another of her hand-painted animations is Origin of Species, which delves into biological evolution over billions of years. Starting with a basic bacteria, the piece explores the structures that enable movement in such an organism. The themes of the work look into all aspect of life, including destruction that leads to rebirth. Through this process, Liu examines the universal that hold life together, rather than focusing on the individual.

Claire Wilson

1713

Related topics: Chinese artists, installation, gallery shows, events in Singapore

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