Studio International

Published 08/12/2015

Liu Ye: ‘Dick Bruna is more important to me than Da Vinci’

The Beijing-based artist on how seeing Bruna’s Miffy was seeing himself in a mirror, and why the most important thing about a painting is that it requires the viewer to spend a lot of time looking at it

The following is an excerpt of a conversation between Lilly Wei and Liu Ye in his Beijing studio in the summer of 2015.


Liu Ye is a contemporary Chinese painter who lives and works in Beijing, where he was born in 1964. He grew up during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) and studied at the School of Arts and Crafts and the Central Academy of Fine Arts, both in Beijing. He went to Berlin in 1989, gaining an MFA from Berlin University of the Arts in 1994, before returning to China. In 1998, he went to Amsterdam, as an artist-in-residence at the Rijksakademie, following which, he spent some time as an intern at the Delfina Foundation in London.

His style is not discernibly Chinese, if indeed that can be defined as a style, and his time in the Netherlands skewed his work towards such diverse influences as Dutch old masters, Piet Mondrian and Dick Bruna and his celebrated rabbit, Miffy. Liu’s father wrote children’s books, but these were banned during the time of the Cultural Revolution. Nevertheless, as a child, Liu read them surreptitiously and voraciously. A blend of elite and pop culture, which includes multiple references to fairytales, and his rich, highly refined style of painting are hallmarks of Liu’s work.

Liu shows widely in China and abroad and his work is in the collections of many museums, including the Kunstmuseum Bern and the Duolun Museum of Modern Art in Shanghai. He is represented by Sperone Westwater in New York.

Interview by LILLY WEI
Translation by ALEX MA