When I arrived at the Lisson Gallery to see the Liu Xiaodong exhibition I thought that I had made a mistake. The subjects of the pictures were Londoners in pubs and women in cosmopolitan arab coffee shops. Shamefully, as I didn’t know anything about the artist before my visit, I was expecting a stereotypical representation of a contemporary asian art exhibition of beautiful landscapes and chinese imagery. What I was presented with however, was the complete opposite, and I couldn’t have been more content!
All of the images on display were created especially for the exhibition, the first for Xiaodong in the UK. They reflect the surrounding environment of the Lisson Gallery around Edgeware Road where Xiaodong immersed himself in the eclectic London culture to undertake his work. We get a real sense of the lives of the people working in the pub, with pictures of the pub dog and the owner’s son. We also get a glimpse into London’s middle eastern community which is rarely talked about. It is clear that Xiaodong made real relationships during his time here which are also documented in letters and a documentary.
The paintings themselves have been either taken from photographs or include Xiaodong’s own painted figures on top of printed photographs. My personal favourite image is a photograph of a dog jumping into the river where Xiaodong has painted in another dog, jumping in behind him.
This exhibition is a fresh change from the normal way in which Asian artists are presented in London. It is also wonderfully personal to both the artist in his experiences of the city, and to us Londoners who are lucky enough to have our home illustrated so beautifully from someone who is new to the city – definitely a must see!
Liu Xiaodong is on display at Lisson Gallery until 2 November