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Liu Qinghe

Liu Qinghe’s Terms of Endearment: Tally Beck

Liu Qinghe explores new subject matter in his latest series Bao Bei Er. Generally noted for his monumental, sensual ink wash paintings of larger-than-life adult subjects, Liu has shifted his attention to a subjective catalogue of rural and urban children. He paints them on a smaller scale, emphasising their diminutive stature and vulnerability.

Bao Bei Er literally means “precious shell” and refers to the ancient Chinese practice of using cowry shells as currency. In modern Chinese parlance, it has become a term of endearment reserved for children and loved ones. Liu Qinghe’s choice of title effectively forecasts the tenderness and emotion that his delicate ink wash paintings evoke.

There is a palpable sense of pathos in his depictions – particularly in the infants.
Tally Beck

Liu was inspired to address this theme after seeing media images of children in the countryside that spotlight rural poverty and seek to shock the urban population, inspiring donations. He was also aware of the practice among urban children of donating their pocket money directly to rural families. Noting that the media concentrated on a few images of select children in the countryside and that this presentation was too myopic, Liu sought to extrapolate on this imagery as well as portray the sociological connection between the urban and rural children.

The series of paintings is formally cohesive, yet each is autonomous. Far from being portraits, Liu paints them from his imagination. He gives them attitudes and attributes that comment on their situations. The mischievous boy from the countryside wears a sleeveless T-shirt, a PLA cap and no pants. He wields a slingshot, and his eye narrows to focus on a target. In sharp contrast, a city girl stands primly and sports a colourful, frilly outfit. Her wide eyes suggest naiveté. Liu’s portrayals comment on socialisation with Rousseauesque romanticism: the partially nude but cunning rural boy is free and unfettered by societal restraints while the urban girl, encased in superfluous artifice, seems to be deprived of a carefree childhood.

Liu was executing these works when the catastrophic earthquake struck Sichuan Province in May 2008, and this tragedy affected his engagement with his subject matter. Some of the works had already been completed (such as the boy with the slingshot), but Liu embarked on many of the works with knowledge of the earthquake orphans fresh in his mind. These pieces illustrate the seismographic nature of Liu’s ink wash paintings. There is a palpable sense of pathos in his depictions—particularly in the infants.

Liu is able to achieve an astonishing degree of expressiveness in the medium of ink wash. His careful modulation of tones, light and shadow lent a salient sensuality to his previous work. In this series, he manipulates the medium to give his subjects softness, innocence and vulnerability. In his depictions of adults, the defining linear elements convey sexual tension with tactile vibrancy. Liu employs a completely different type of energy in his youthful subjects. He removes the linear tension and describes flesh with warm hues and tonal variations.

When explaining his choice of subjects, Liu emphasised his intrigue with the notion of predetermined destiny. While all children are the same, their futures seem laid out depending on where they are born. He does not allow this predetermination to add static elements to his depictions. Whether presenting adults or children, his subjects always seem to be in transition. The energy he imbues in the character defies a sense of permanence. In these youthful subjects, Liu augments this vibrancy with a brighter palette than he uses in his images of adults. He continues to measure and restrain his use of colour, but the saturated yellows and lively reds and pinks suggest a sense of optimism unseen in his images of more mature subjects.

It may have seemed that the power of Liu Qinghe’s work lay in its monumentality in many of his previous paintings, but we see in this recent series that the awesomeness of his imagery lies in its intimacy. His virtuosity in the ink wash medium allows intense expressiveness; he creates a kind of impressionism with psychological intensity. As he explores the characters of children of different backgrounds, he evokes our sympathy and underscores the universality of human experience.

Born in Tianjin City
Graduated from the Tianjin School of Arts and Crafts
Graduated from the Folk Art Dept., the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA), Beijing
Graduated with Masters Degree from the Chinese Painting Dept., CAFA
Residency at the Royal Academy of Fine Art (RAFA) studio in Madrid, Spain

Vice Professor, Chinese Painting Dept., CAFA

Solo Exhibitions


Sunflower – Liu Qinghe, Hive Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing


Floating – Liu Qinghe, The Opposite House 
Switching Lanes – Liu Qinghe, Red Gate Gallery
Throbbing – Liu Qinghe, Red Gate Gallery
Liu Qinghe, He Xiangning Art Museum
Bao Bei Er, Red Gate Gallery
Liu Qinghe, Beijing Today Art Museum, Beijing
Beyond the Bank, National Art Museum of China (NAMOC), Beijing
Liu Qinghe, Dong San Bang Gallery, Korea
River – Scape, Red Gate Gallery
Wind Blowing on the Water, Red Gate Gallery
Liu Qinghe, CAFA
The State of Ink Paintings, Qinghua University
Liu Qinghe, Qing Ping Gallery, Boston
On the Border, Red Gate Gallery
Liu Qinghe, Luoyang Museum
Wind – Night, Red Gate Gallery
The Shore, Red Gate Gallery
Walk in the Clouds, Red Gate Gallery
Guangzhou Gate Salon
Feelings, Red Gate Gallery
Ink and Wash Paintings, Shenzhen Art Museum
Recent Paintings, Red Gate Gallery
Liu Qinghe, CAFA, Beijing
Liu Qinghe – Chinese Ink and Wash Paintings, RAFA, Madrid
Liu Qinghe, Sephira Galeria, Madrid

Group Exhibitions

Two Generations – 20 Years of Chinese Contemporary Art 2012 Australian Tour: City of Sydney Chinese New Year; Manning Regional Gallery; Damien Minton Gallery; University of Newcastle Gallery; Melbourne International Fine Arts (MiFA); Linton & Kay, Perth
20 Years – Two Generations of Artists at Red Gate, island6 Art Center, Shanghai
20 Years – Two Generations of Artists at Red Gate, Red Gate Gallery
Matrix of Four Gates – Exhibition of Traditional Lineaged Contemporary Inkwash, Today Art Museum, Beijing
Red Gate Stars, Red Gate Gallery
Visual Dialogue – Exhibition of Chinese Oil Painting, National Art Museum of China
China – Facing Realism, Chinese Contemporary Art Exhibition, National Art Museum of China (NAMOC)
Beijing International Art Biennale, NAMOC
Transforming Marks of Ink, Berlin Asian Art Museum
No Ink – Exhibition of Chinese Contemporary Inkwash, Today Art Museum
Artists’ Exhibitions – Li Jin, Liu Qinghe and Wu Yi, Denmark Art Center, Beijing
Side by Side – Liu Qinghe and Li Jin, Morono Kiang Gallery, Los Angeles
Contemporary Cultural Venation – China Version, Today Art Museum
Contemporary Imagination, China Millennium Monument Art Museum, Beijing
60 Sigh, Today Art Museum
Life, Yanhuang Art Museum, Beijing
Contemporary Chinese Art, Mexico
Oriental Space – 20th Century Chinese Paintings, Paris
Excellent Artists Nomination, Today Art Museum
Chinese Cotemporary Ink and Wash, NAMOC
Chinese Contemporary Famous Artist, NAMOC
19th Asia International Art Exhibition, Fukuoka Art Museum, Japan
Ink and Wash Figure Paintings in New Reality, Shanghai Art Museum
1st Fine Arts Documentary Nomination, Hubei Institute of Fine Arts
Nanjing Ink Painting Media Triennial, Jiangsu Art Museum
New Freehand Chinese Ink – Paintings by Invited Artists, Beijing Yanhuang Art Museum; Yi Lang Art Gallery, Singapore
New Generation and Post – Revolution, China Blue Gallery, Beijing
An Opening Era – 40th Anniversary of the Founding of NAMOC, NAMOC
Chinese Art Today, China Millennium Monument Art Museum
1st Beijing International Art Biennale, National Art Galley of China
International Art Expo – Chinese Exhibition, Seoul
Dot, Radiation and Penetration – Visual Expressions through Paper and Ink, Malaysia Art Museum, Guangdong Art Museum
Chinese Contemporary Art, Seoul
Artists Across the Straits, Taiwan National Art Gallery, Taipei
China – Korea Artists, Seoul Sejong Art Museum; Suwon University Gallery
Artists’ Home Art Gallery, Vienna
Sketches and Drawings, Tuancheng Gallery, Beijing
Urban Creation, Shanghai Biennale, Shanghai Art Gallery
3rd International Ink Painting Biennale, Guan Shanyue Gallery, Shenzhen
The Distinct Color of Ink, China Contemporary Ink Paintings, NAMOC
Extending the Ink, China Contemporary Ink Paintings, NAMOC
1st National Ink Paintings Invitational Exhibition, Dalian
Clues to the Future – Red Gate Gallery’s 10th Anniversary
Living, Hamburger Bahnhoff, Berlin
Paper / Ink, National Gallery of Korea, Seoul
100 Years of Chinese Painting, NAMOC
Experimental Ink and Wash, Guangdong Art Musuem
Gate of the Century, 1979 - 1999 Chinese Art Invitational Exhibition, Chinese Contemporary Art Museum, Chengdu
New Chinese Painting, Shanghai
Shenzhen 2nd International Ink and Wash Biennale, Shenzhen
Shanghai Art Museum’s Collection, Shanghai

Between the Lines, Mosman Art Gallery, Sydney
Urban Yearnings: Portraits of Contemporary China by Liu Qinghe, Su Xinping and Zhang Yajie, Chinese Cultural Center, San Francisco
Chinese Ink & Wash Portraits, NAMOC
The Tree of Life, Qing Ping Gallery, Boston
A Collection of Contemporary Experimental Ink / Wash Drawings, Guangdong Art Museum, Shenzhen Art Museum
Asian Art, Seoul
Contemporary China, Berlin
9th National Fine Arts Exhibition, Guangdong
Retake: A Selection Reviewing Red Gate Artists’ Signature Works, Red Gate Gallery
Chinese Watercolors by Teachers of CAFA, NAMOC
Works by Famous Contemporary Chinese Artists, Zhuhai
National Exhibition – Trends in Chinese Ink Painting, NAMOC
Figurative Chinese Painting, Gallery of International Art Palace, Beijing
8th National Fine Arts Exhibition, NAMOC
1st National Exhibition of Chinese Painting, NAMOC
20th Century – China, NAMOC
New Generation Art, Chinese Museum of History, Beijing
Chinese Figure Painting, Chinese Painting Research Institute, Beijing
Chinese Painting, Sino Japanese Exchange Center, Beijing
Four Painters, CAFA
Academy Show, CAFA
2nd National Exhibition of Young Artists, NAMOC

Gold Prize of Beijing, 8th National Fine Arts Exhibition
Second Prize, Academy Show, CAFA
Second Prize, 2nd Tianjin Youth Exhibition


BHP Beijing
Australian Embassy, Beijing
Beijing Traditional Chinese Painting Research Institute
Shenzhen Art Museum
Guangdong Art Museum
Shanghai Art Museum
China Art Museum
Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Spain
Sephira Galeria, Spain

My recent work is about a return to nature, which takes the form of a couple of fruit trees or a mountain. I feel that only by being in nature will one feel extremely peaceful; where one can find a serenity that emanates from the inner self. It is a place free of slogans and there is nothing to fathom. By returning to this boundless inner sanctum, one can access a life force. Perhaps it is just that for me? I feel closer to myself as I channel this internal energy into my painting.

Liu Qinghe



9 am - 5 pm Daily
Levels 1 & 4,
Dongbianmen Watchtower,
Dongcheng, Beijing
Beijing International Post Office
Box No. 9039,
Beijing, China 100600
(+86 10) 6525 1005
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