“Most people find a sunset attractive, or a garden. For us, a crumbling city structure with a dripping gutter has value. For us, a highway is beautiful.”
-Zhang Deli of Liu Dao
"Gaojia", a Liu Dao artwork revolving around differing conceptions of beauty, shows a red papercut of a tree that is connected in a single piece like the most traditional of Chinese art history, but is more intricate in that the tree is interrupted by a curling highway which grows from the ground and chokes like a Biblical snake before extending off into infinite space.
In terms of erudition, the highway is deceptive in its apparent simplicity, much like the cuts of Henri Matisse’s later years, like “Black Leaf on Green Background” and those found in his “Jazz” series, and even his paintings from throughout his career: with thick membranes, it teeters on columns as crude as the rocks of Stonehenge. The effect is a brazen stroke of Fauvism through the ancient blossoms of age-old papercutting.
Liu Dao attach personal affection to the image of the highway. Almost all newcomers to Shanghai ride from Pudong Airport along the Waihuan Expressway or Middle Ring Road, and from views elevated as high as twenty-storey buildings they watch the city open like the buds depicted on the branches in “Gaojia”. On the journey, the Chinese Pavilion of the World Expo stands guard, red, immense and top-heavy. The Huangpu River flows inevitably below the Lupu or Yangpu Bridges. If at night, the city glistens like a concrete lawn covered in LED dew. In recollection of this cosmic effect on the new visitor, Liu Dao inject the semi-organic highway structure with a fluid light that shines from behind the soy-colored paper collage in the center of the teak frame. The neon-shouldered road that streaks among the roots and branches of Shanghai is complete in its portrayal.
Meanwhile, the decoupage of morphing manmade structures and unending road references M.C. Escher’s “Still Life and Street”, and Bruno Ernst’s “The Magic Mirror of M.C. Escher”, wherein the author calls the work one of “distinctly recognizable realities bound together in a natural, and yet at the same time a completely impossible, way.” This is the prevailing theme of Shanghai for artists, residents and visitors alike: a merger of worlds that cannot feasibly coexist and yet manage to do so. All around us is the past and present, the decaying and spurting, the archaic and revolutionary. [Pete Bradt]