The Flowers of Evil
Nov 19 - Dec 13, 2016

Press Release

Curator Article

The Flowers of Evil

Liu Xintao Works



Duan Jun


Since the end of the 1980s to the early 1990s, Liu Xintao unveiled the prelude of his oil painting career, and in the last twenty years has made remarkable accomplishment. In particular, his monochromatic urban ruins Despondent Nights series is widely known in the art world. Liu Xintao’s is practice centered on everyday experiences, urban life and social change, to represent the corroded society and despondent human nature, the grim reality of the world today while trying stay hopeful.


In the recent years, Liu Xintao has held solo exhibitions in Shenzhen, Paris and Beijing. For this exhibition, the Whitebox Art Centre and the artist consider this exhibition as an opportunity, aimed at reinventing the ways in which the works of art will be presented based on the specific characteristics of the location, for example, the structure of the gallery, and the center’s academic direction, rather than simply placing the works in the galleries mechanically.


 Although the exhibition The Flowers of Evil – Liu Xintao’s Works is primarily comprised of oil paintings, its introduction of actual objects related to the image expands the parameter of the paintings. The objects in the galleries are not necessarily literal representations of those in the images, as objects embody their own values and existential significance, thus the ambiguity between the objects and the oil paintings engenders a unique relationship between the two. Seen from one perspective, they may establish a close liaison; on another position, they may be completely irrelevant, while the overall exhibition tries to render an atmosphere synchronized with the surrealist undertone of the paintings. The adjustment in the mode of exhibition adds excitement and inspirations to Liu Xintao’s art practice, allowing him to make further in-depth explorations in the future.


Besides the monochromatic color scheme, the primary characteristic of Liu Xintao’s oil painting is the urban night scene, especially those on the cusp of the city and the countryside, and the implied sexual gestures the artists portrays, placing the viewer in a voyeuristic role, impacting one’s psyche, awareness and desires. In recent years, Liu Xintao’s oil painting focus on expanding the spatial composition of imagery, juxtaposing the interior with the exterior, allowing various spaces, scenes and events to overlap, through which the works engenders a more absurd and surreal sense, appropriate in examining the status of society and the human condition.


In 1857, Baudelaire’s collection of poems, The Flowers of Evil is written in the framework of urban life, revealing an unprecedented virility in humanity and society, their status of being numb, covetous, regret, cruel, fear and lethargic. Baudelaire wrote, “Behind the immense stage of life, at the darkest corner of the abyss, my witness of the strange world is lucid, and for my own vigilance of being a delirious victim, I am dragging along a serpent biting on my shoe.” One and a half century has passed, today, Liu Xintao visualizes a bewildering world through visual means, where everyone is dragging that shoe-bitten serpent, but hopefully we realize its existence and have the means to shrug it off.


    Liu Xintao

Installation View


Media Report