Having grown up the son of factory workers during the Cultural Revolution, Liu, who is based in Beijing, says it was curiosity that drove him. “London is one of the most expensive cities in the world—how do all these British-Chinese live there? And live such comfortable lives, too,” Liu said. “I was curious to see if they could actually adjust, to blend into English society…Having money helps, but is it enough when choices about marriage, intrapersonal relationships, children’s education, and other core values are involved?”
Before he started painting his subjects in 2019, Liu spent time getting to know them, learning more about their experiences in a global city, and what inspired them to plant roots so far from home. These findings will be shared alongside the paintings, through excerpts from Liu’s diaries, and a short film.
More than anything, what makes the show compelling is Liu’s undeniable skill, which has made him one of the foremost painters of China’s neo-realist movement. And at a time when anti-Chinese sentiment in the U.K. is at a high, the show takes on additional weight.