Liu Dahong considers himself a bad egg by birth. In his latest exhibition titled “Childhood,” the Chinese artist shows never-before-seen paintings on the theme of rebellion inspired by childhood memories.
The show opened yesterday as the inaugural solo exhibition at Rossi & Rossi Gallery. “Childhood” features new work by Liu, completed in the last year or so. The paintings are exemplary of Liu’s role as a witness of Chinese history using his personal memories and fantastical imagination. This time the memories are of his younger days and childhood becomes a symbol of “trouble-making.”
“When a child reaches his or her first month’s birthday in China, there is a custom of the newborn’s parents handing out boiled eggs dyed red to friends and family. What this ancient ritual really signifies is the beginning of a life of troublemaking, literally, a life full of bad eggs. Causing mischief is essential to human life,” says the artist in his essay “New Year’s Day: Make Trouble.”
The works include sentimental scenes such as “Listening to Stories Under the Light,” a portrait of his father telling stories to entertain the neighbors in the evenings before the days of television. “When I compare those days to the present, with one-child families sitting around staring at the television set, I get a chill up my spine. I can’t even imagine how DINKS couples — double income, no kids — spend their evenings,” says Liu.
There is also the cheeky “Bad Eggs (Meddling Eggs): Little Brother” that portrays a Yao Ming-esque character with his pants down, the underwear resembling Beijing’s CCTV Tower, which is nicknamed “Big Pants.”
The artworks on view at this exhibition form part of a body of works collated into the book ‘Childhood,’ presented alongside a textual accompaniment written by the artist. Within his writing, Dahong captures perfectly the tales and thought processes from which his artistic narratives are born. At the same time, the artworks themselves exemplify the way in which Dahong’s virtuosity as a writer informs his visual expressions, injecting them with a lyrical quality.
Over-arching the works are the themes of childhood and rebellion, memory and myth- making: each piece paying homage to the act of trouble making and its youthful essence. Dahong is able to conjure up individual and everyday scenes of mischief against a background of sweeping historical change.
“For me, childhood is the standard of everything beautiful, the yard stick. Childhood is eternal, may the ideals of childhood reign forever!”
Born in Qingdao, Shandong, China in 1962, Liu Dahong studied under Zao Wouki before graduating from the China Academy of Art in 1985. Since then he has exhibited widely on the international stage, with a number of solo shows from 1992, as well as group exhibitions. Dahong now currently lives, works, and teaches in Shanghai.