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February 5, 2012

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Artist with a touch of erotic magic

PAINTER Liu Yi believes it is an artist's job to "torture" himself when he closes the door to work, yet "startle" others when he opens the door to show off that creation.

Liu has opened his door with a solo exhibition at Shanghai Art Museum. It features nearly 30 paintings he created during the past two decades.

The painter is known for creating dream-like scenarios in his work

"I like the French word deja vu, meaning a feeling of having already experienced the present situation," he says. "Everyone dreams during sleep. In that dream, there exists no language but visual images. These visual images perhaps come from our reality."

Liu is also no stranger to controversy.

His painting "Beijing 2008" caused a big stir on the Internet with some saying it was too "erotic." It also sparked a heated debate on Chinese politics and culture. At one point, it was the third most-clicked painting online - only "Mona Lisa" and "Sunflowers" had more views - which generated some mock applause from the online community.

The painting depicts five Chinese girls around a mahjong table and several are half naked.

"Call it classic or modern, humorous or erotic, national or global," says Liu, who was born in Tianjin in 1957. "Sometimes it is better to hide the unutterable behind the utterable."

Liu says during previous joint exhibitions, his paintings usually draw more interest among visitors.

"I remember feeling excited to find an old lady who lingered in front of my paintings. Maybe in her eyes, this painting makes her uncomfortable, but why this painting?" he says. "It might embody some scenes that appeared in her dreams."

Liu moved to Canada in 1991 and he now lives and works in Toronto. He is a member of the Ontario Society of Artists.

While he has left China, his art always has links to his homeland, yet he combines this with classical European realism in his paintings.

His surreal worlds always seem to transcend culture and space.

The scenes he conjures are often dreamy, weird and even awesome. Growing up in China and later living in Canada has perhaps given him insight into being an insider in one world and an outsider in another.

Chen Danqing, a renowned Chinese artist, book writer and art critic and former classmate of Liu, says his paintings are "often hard to describe, yet compelling."

Date: Through February 16, 9am-5pm

Address: 325 Nanjing Rd W.

Tel: 6327-2829


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