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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



The Time of The Year, Tokyo Gallery + BTAP, Beijing


Traffic Controls, Meilun Art Museum, Hunan


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


Floating by Liu Qinghe, The Opposite House, Beijing


AGE – Liu Qinghe Art work Exhibition, K Gallery, Chengdu


Switching Lanes – Liu Qinghe, Red Gate Gallery


Somebody up There Likes Me – Liu Qinghe Recent Ink Painting works Exhibition, Nantong Central Art Museum, Nantong


Throbbing - Liu Qinghe, Red Gate Gallery


Liu Qinghe, He Xiangning Art Museum


Bao Bei Er, Red Gate Gallery


Liu Qinghe, Beijing Today Art Museum, Beijng


Beyond the Bank, National Art Museum of China, Beijing


Liu Qinghe, Dong San Bang Gallery, Korea


River – Scape, Red Gate Gallery


Wind Blowing on the Water, Red Gate Gallery


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, Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing


Liu Qinghe- Chinese Ink and Wash Paintings, RAFA, Madrid


Liu Qinghe, Sephira Galeria, Madrid


Group Exhibitions



Red Gate on the Move, Red Gate Gallery, Beijing


Discordant Harmony, Inside-out Art Museum, Beijing


The 2nd Shenzhen Beinnale of Contemporary Art – City as Museum, OCT, Shenzhen


Tracing the Past and Shaping the Future, Powerlong Museum, Shanghai


More than 10 Feasibilities of Ink, Luxehills Art Museum


Stories of the Life – Chinese Contemporary Art Exhibition, China Cultural Centre in Sydney, Australia


My Living Room 25th Anniversary Exhibition, Red Gate Gallery, Beijing


SHUIMO Meet Revolution The new Silk Road, Minsheng Art Museum, Beijing


Dimensions of Concerns – Contemporary Ink Painting Exhibition of Six Artists, National Art Museum of China, Beijing


West Says East Says – Chinese Contemporary Art Research Exhibition, United Art Museum, Wuhan


Reshuffling the Past – China Contemporary Ink Art Tour Exhibition, USA


Washing Painting New Dimension - 2013 Critics Nomination Exhibition, National Art Museum of China, Beijing


Invitational Exhibition of Contemporary Ink and Wash Painting 2000-2012, Today Art Museum, Beijing


The Origin of Dao - New Conception of Chinese Contemporary Art, Hong Kong Museum of Art


Illusion/Image - Contemporary Chinese Ink Art Series I, Hive Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing


Portrait of the Time - 30 Years of Chinese Contemporary Art, Power Station of Art, Shanghai


Spectacle Reconstruction - Chinese Contemporary Art, Debrecen MODEM, Hungary


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


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


Beijing International Art Biennale, National Art Museum of China


Transforming Marks of Ink, Berlin Asian Art Museum, Berlin


 No Ink – Exhibhition 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, Beijing Today Art Museum


Contemporary Imagination,  China Millennium Monument Art Museum, Beijing


60 Sigh, Today Art Museum, Beijing 


Life, Yanhuang Art Museum, Beijing


Contemporary Chinese Art, Mexico


Oriental Space – 20th Century Chinese Paintings, Paris


Excellent Artists Nomination, Today Art Museum, Beijing


Chinese Cotemporary Ink and Wash, National Art Museum of China (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 Shu Lang Art Gallery, Singapore; Europe


New Generation and Post – Revolution, China Blue Gallery, Beijing


An Opening Era – 40th Anniversary of the Founding of NAGC, NAGC

Chinese Art Today, China Millennium Monument Art Museum


1st Beijing International Art Biennale, NAGC      


 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, NAGC


Extending the Ink, China Contemporary Ink Paintings, NAGC


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, NAGC


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, NAGC


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, NAGC


Guangzhou International Invitational Art Fair, Guangzhou


‘97 Chinese Contemporary Art Invitational Fair, Shanghai


Works by Famous Contemporary Chinese Artists, Zhuhai


National Exhibition - Trends in Chinese Ink Painting, NAGC


Figurative Chinese Painting, Gallery of International Art Palace, Beijing


8th National Fine Arts Exhibition, NAGC


1st National Exhibition of Chinese Painting, NAGC


20th Century - China, NAGC


New Generation Art, History Museum, 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, NAGC






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; numerous private collections.


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



10 am - 6 pm, Tuesday - Sunday
798 Art District,
No. 2 Jiuxianqiao Road,
Chaoyang District, Beijing, China
Beijing International Post Office
Box No. 9039,
Beijing, China 100600
(+86 10) 5762 3032
(+86) 137 0107 8721
[email protected]
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