For some people, time stops early. Liu Shudi, a young artist who received her master’s degree from Sichuan Fine Arts Institute last year, says hers is stuck in the rebellious era of adolescence.

“I resonate with vintage art. I loved to explore old homes and wasted streets when I was a child. I miss that feeling,” Liu says.

Her style is quite unique. She loves to add old childhood scenes with dreamy tones and sparkling soft lights. Her works, at times, are like stepping into a carnival at night. Her brushstrokes give way to innocent dreamscapes that teem with an excitement that most people lose by adulthood.

“Painting is like a game I play with myself. Sometimes, a brush offers the solution to something I am puzzling over. I record my thoughts, and then I search for materials to begin my work,” Liu says. “Eventually it all comes together, and the work itself is quite interesting.”

Thick fog and bright, exotic colors are two key elements in Liu’s work. In her City Rainbow, she delineates a view of a city at night lit by colorful neon lights. It’s a common setting for city dwellers, whose inner confusion is flooded out by late-night lights.

“I love to see dazzling neon lights. The colors themselves project a city’s fickleness,” Liu says.

Color is a powerful tool in her creative process – especially in her childhood-theme works. The people in Liu’s painting have pink, round faces and dark black hair: the typical way children were instructed to draw human portraits in the 1980s. Liu sometimes deliberately makes her works a little fuzzy, trying to capture the feel of an old album, as in Deer, a picture of a brown-spotted deer in front of lush bushes.

In A Cook Who Can’t Drive is Not a Good Artist, Liu compares a toy train to a fish-shaped belt of sushi with passengers coming out of the fish’s belly. The juxtaposition gives the viewer plenty of room to explore. In another work titled Table Manner, knives and forks are seen cutting up a Rubik’s cube.

Like many other artists, loneliness nurtures Liu’s talent and gives her plenty of time to dig into her thoughts.

“My imagination is the tool I use to present ‘the real me’. I am an introvert in life, but my imagination flies high and gives me a way to present myself,” she says. She defines herself as “odd,” but hopes that viewers who see her work will shift their opinion closer to “interesting.”

“I hope people can find the underlying meaning in my works: to find the fun in and poke fun at life,” she says.

Although she has only been out of school for one year, Liu’s work has already appeared in nine exhibitions. She’s highly optimistic when imagining her artistic future.

“I hope I can paint more and explore more directions,” Liu says. “I have many different styles in mind that I want to attempt. Maybe I will keep going in my current direction, and maybe not. I’m still a young artist, and there is a lifetime ahead of me.”

Karena Hu

About Karena Hu

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Karena was born with the English name Karen but decided to add an “a.” She dreamed of a career in astronomy, but bad scores in physics kept her out of the science department. She seeks other worlds in reading and writing and is a super fan of the Hunger Games trilogy.

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