Hung Liu’s Sanctuary at Turner Carroll Gallery in Santa Fe illuminated and paid respect to the renowned artist and her moving works.
Hung Liu: Sanctuary
August 20—September 19, 2021
Turner Carroll Gallery, Santa Fe
The title and scope of Hung Liu’s latest exhibition at Santa Fe’s Turner Carroll Gallery took on deeper meaning after the artist’s passing in August 2021. The previously planned exhibition became more of a retrospective, showcasing a selection of the artist’s remarkable body of work, including lithographs, monotypes, photographs, and paintings and mixed media on canvas, aluminum, resin, and wood. From her thick brush strokes, trademark circles, and paint drips to natural imagery layered against soulful faces, Liu’s artwork is immediately recognizable and continued to illuminate in Sanctuary.
This exhibition highlighted the artist’s more prevalent human subjects over the years: migrant children, mothers, refugees, and concubines. The work of Liu—who was born into the Chinese Civil War, forced into the fields during the Cultural Revolution, and exiled from her homeland—is fueled by an urgency of story and voice. Through rendering her subjects, she was able to connect with her own experience of displacement and convey it to the viewer with empathy and respect.
In her larger-than-life portraits, usually drawn from photographs, Liu’s training as a muralist is apparent. Apsaras Black is a 2009 oil-on-canvas painting of a young girl holding a white cloth up to her face to cover her mouth and nose. The image feels like a foreshadowing of the current pandemic but likely depicts poor environmental conditions. A small black circle hovering just above the girl’s left shoulder completes the picture.
Circles, morphing in size and color, appear in numerous pieces, connecting the viewer to other works as a narrative thread. Lines of paint and linseed oil drip down canvases and create an aging effect, like crumpled paper or worn leather. Regional birds and flowers add sensual details and vibrancy. The subjects and events of these works span time and place yet feel connected through humanity, story, technique, and the indomitable spirit of the artist herself.