Liu Xiaodong at Palazzo delle Esposizioni
A work in progress: "Eat First"
Born in the province of Liaoning in 1963, Liu Xiaodong lives and works in Beijing. Painter, he realizes scenes and landscapes from life on vast canvases, and many of his works (all oil on canvas) represent visions that the artist has carefully thought through. For the most part he paints open-air scenes, always inhabited by human figures -- men and women who tend to live in the landscapes and cityscapes where the artist has chosen to paint, and who pose for him as though they were fully fledged models. Through the simplicity of an approach seemingly based on ordinary everyday gestures, Liu Xiaodong's works have an epic aura to them thanks to his use of succinct realism to address controversial issues of crucial importance in contemporary society. For instance, he devoted his best known cycle of paintings in 2003 to the forced migration of the population from the Three Gorges Valley, who were shifted wholesale from their valley before it was flooded to become China's largest source of hydroelectric power. And a more recent series of pictures painted from life in Tibet hint, against a backdrop of human figures, at the marks of technological progress designed to deprive them of their ancient traditions.
To coincide with an exhibition entitled "China in the 21st Century, Art Between Identity and Transformation", organized by Zhu Qi and Morgan Morris, which is due to run at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni from 19 February through 18 May 2008, the artist has decided to spend a month in Rome to work on a huge painting, and thus the the foyer of the Palazzo delle Esposizioni has been turned into an artist's studio where Liu Xiaodong is painting from life "Eat First" a "Last Supper", as a tribute to Italy and to the genius of Leonardo da Vinci. Using five canvases measuring two and half meters by ten meters overall, the artist will be painting thirteen models as they genuinely dine at a table laid with traditional Mediterranean foods and dishes. The artist sees the thirteen models, dressed in their usual clothes, as providing a nonconfessional view of the Last Supper, with a different fate awaiting each of the diners once the meal is over.