Liu Xiaodong: Half Street

Sophie Fiennes Shadows the Chinese Neorealist Painter as London Becomes His Muse

Filmmaker Sophie Fiennes secures an intimate and charming exploration of the creative processes behind Liu Xiaodong’s figurative work in this excerpt from her 40-minute study of the pioneering artist. A keen documentarian and former actor, Liu, who is married to fellow painter Yu Hong, took up a six-week artist residency at two pubs—including The Perseverance, which features in today’s extract—and a Middle Eastern restaurant in London’s Marylebone, creating eight large-scale acrylic paintings of neighborhood sitters of Polish, French, West Indian and Arab descent. “Facing the realities of life is my favorite way to paint. I would set up my canvas and paint what I witnessed,” says Liu, who graduated from Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Arts after winning a scholarship, forging a radical path within China’s contemporary art scene during the 1990s. Having documented Slavoj Žižek, Grace Jones and Michael Clark, Fiennes followed Liu as he photographed and took notes of his cross-cultural encounters, which marks the artist’s inaugural UK exhibition at London’s Lisson Gallery. 

Liu Xiaodong: Half Street runs September 27 through November 2 at the Lisson Gallery.

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    Yu Hong: The Laughing Heart

    One of China’s Foremost Artists Urges Calm in a Hyper-Accelerated Society

    Yu Hong drifts through the post-industrial landscape of 751 D-Park in Beijing’s 798 art district in this intimate film by director Thomas Rhazi. Here reflecting on the frenetic rush of her country, Yu inhabits a quiet, thoughtful corner of the Chinese art world. Like her husband, artist Liu Xiaodong, she is influenced by social realism, creating a theatre of human form and experience that is often rendered in mixed materials including gold leaf and oil paint. Ever curious about how social shifts and the abandonment of tradition alter female experience—Yu’s own grandmother had her feet bound—she often uses herself as muse. “Female artists have less opportunities to exhibit and sell their work then men,” she says of the difficulty of being a creative woman in China. “This constricts their growth and their ability to break free of the traditional role with the family.” Yu’s work has been exhibited in galleries as diverse as the SFMOMA in California and the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens. She remembers her city’s transformation from a one-gallery town in the 1980s, when she defied social pressure to quit and procreate to study at the Central Academy of Fine Arts. China has come a long way since then, but Yu is keen to focus on the human stress that such progress brings. “My work expresses the various problems a country faces when undergoing such rapid development,” she says. “It creates lots of pressure for individuals.”

    Special thanks to 751 D-Park. 

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    On Collaboration: Amanda Harlech x Jonathan Anderson

    The Aristocratic Member of Team Lagerfeld Talks to the Young Designer for the Latest in Our Series with EDITION Hotels

    “I think that anybody who is a creative artist, who is making something out of nothing, has got to be allowed to explore and go into the wild, even if that is in the middle of a city,” muses Amanda Harlech, Karl Lagerfeld’s longtime right-hand woman who features in “Distinction,” the third part of On Collaboration, the NOWNESS series created in conjunction with EDITION Hotels. Director Johnnie Shand-Kydd captures Harlech alongside London-based designer Jonathan (J.W.) Anderson in the bucolic environs of her blissful Shropshire meadow. “Collaboration is the meeting of minds to birth something new or different,” says Anderson, the Northern Ireland-native at the helm of his own acclaimed, eponymous menswear and womenswear lines, Topshop capsule collections and his first collection for Versus, unveiled in May with the help of Donatella Versace. Harlech works as Creative Consultant for Lagerfeld—and previously John Galliano—and splits her time between Paris and her farm near the North Wales border. “You can only go forward; you can’t be nostalgic or self conscious, that is so dangerous for creativity,” says Harlech, a renowned supporter of emerging fashion talent. “The Latin root of the word collaboration is ‘to work.’ The interesting thing is actually making the work together. It’s all about finding a balance.”

    Each film in the On Collaboration series has been produced in partnership with EDITION Hotels, a new project between Ian Schrager and Marriott Hotels. The London EDITION opens today.

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