Artist Spotlight: Liu Shiyuan


We recently acquired our second Liu Shiyuan work during Frieze NY. Shiyuan has quickly asserted herself as a rising star of the Chinese contemporary art scene. As a post internet artist with a strong aesthetic ideology that guides her practice, she produces works and installations that confront the viewer with the multiple issues of our time - the impact of globalization, loss of individual identity and culture, new aesthetics of beauty and a changed rhetoric of the human ideals of happiness, success and perfection


Born in Beijing in 1985, Liu Shiyuan has cultivated a unique artistic style – expressing profound, intellectual and academic concepts through inflated, somewhat-populist imagery that resonates with the mainstream culture. Intentionally concealing traces of her personal artistry in her work, she believes art is an expression of collectivity, of time, of culture, rather than an expression of the artist, of a particular self. As part of this aesthetic ideology, she does not aspire to bring forth her Chinese heritage, but rather express the global trend of cultural diversity. Interestingly, this does express a personal heritage of sorts – as she herself has migrated around the world, living in multiple countries throughout her life (New York, Beijing and Copenhagen). 

To find a visual language that raises the zeitgeist themes and questions she seeks, Shiyuan frequently uses the internet – which expresses both diversity and globalism – as her tool and technique, her form and her content. Some of her current works both originate from the internet, and are produced by it, such as the work "As Simple As Clay" (2013), a vast grid of prints of objects associated with clay. In this work, clay, a basic substance with which art has been created throughout history, is reimagined by Google Search, producing a contemporary global expression of a traditional material. The search results are cropped onto a blue backdrop, homogenizing the object's context. By "flattening" the objects into nothing more than visual images, their purposes are removed, purposes bestowed upon them by cultural constructs. This exposes how culture manipulates objects and images in order to naturalize their imagined purposes, and the objects themselves are really nothing more than matter, as well as anything you wish them to be. Surfing the internet to find the concepts associated with clay and the images of those concepts, Shiyuan represents both the anonymous internet-user and the millennial designer who curates the content popping up on the screen before her.


In December 2015, the Tiroche DeLeon Collection acquired Shiyuan's pivotal installation "From Happiness to Whatever" (2015), a room created from colorfully patterned carpets patched together. The room is filled with a looped audio radio broadcast of four segments, each dealing with concepts of happiness, success and perfection. The broadcast itself is too a sort of patchwork, and consist of fragments from commercials, speeches, and self-help programs removed from their original context and strung together to function as what they truly are – rhetoric of the human ideals of happiness, success and perfection. This is another exposé of cultural construct, as these concepts are idealized by the media, dictating to us a narrow if not unattainable perception of what is happiness, what is success, and what is perfection.

Liu Shiyuan holds a BA in Digital Media arts from Central Academy of Art and an MFA in photography from the School of Visual Arts, New York. She has been featured in many important shows and project, including CAFAM Future, Moving in time B3 + Beijing Moving image exhibit (Central Academy of Art Museum, 2015), Lost in Export (White Space Beijing, Beijing, 2015), Now You See (White Box Art Center, New York, 2014), Beyond the Pale (Andersen's Contemporary, Copenhagen, 2014), Local Future (Hexiangningart Museum, Shenzen, 2013), Alternatives to Ritual – case of OCAT (Contemporary Art Terminal, 2013), The 7th Shenzheng Sculpture Biennale (Contemporary Art Terminal, Shenzhen, 2012), Stillspotting (Guggenheim, New York, 2011).



Serge Tiroche with Liu Shiyuan, husband and newborn. Taken at Leo Xu solo booth at Frieze NY, May 2016.