Regarding himself as a painter but pioneering through the world of photography, Man Ray has been a major influence on artists. With much coincidence, the allurement of photograms was met with Mia Liu during her university years. In the darkroom, by laying objects and exposing them to different light she was essentially drawing with photography. Her main thread of work, or more precisely works she is known for such as drawings and paper installations has consolidated her into the contemporary artist she is today. Yet in 2021 Liu took a detour to experiment with drawing again, but with light and time, equipped with a decade of experience from her other art forms she finds herself creating a new realm in photography, and breaking new ground.
As Liu takes walks in Nan Kang where she resides, gathering feathers, old springs, pine needles, dragonflies and flowers, these become the inspiration and essence of her works in this exhibition. For the artist, time forms consciousness and with these long walks, she records her consciousness. Researching photography’s history, Anna Atkins’ methodology consistently aligned and became the base of her black and white silver gelatin works. Liu picks apart found elements to form a photograph in the darkroom, then slices these images to create a seeming landscape. These landscapes, as she breaks away from Atkins at this point, are a result of repetition by deconstructing and reconstructing various images. The qualities that shape a traditional understanding of a photograph, a full depiction of a scene or a piece of continuous paper are lost and lose relevance. Diving deeper into the exhibition, colour photo sculptures are also introduced. Their foundation images are extracted from scenes in Nan Kang’s industrial area, and hints of rustic tones from different manmade textures are captured. Works become even more elusive and blurry as Liu strips away from traditional photography methods and embrace digital photography. Like the medium evolution itself, there are no restraints and limitations in this era and her coloured pieces take on different shapes, sizes and formats.
Liu treads rigorously within photography’s processes and its historical development but appears uninterested in their original proprieties or priorities. As visual planes melt and images realistically thicken, a flat and continuous landscape that should form in our cognition is nonexistent. Instead, various textured “scapes” have been created that echo Liu’s internal awareness. As the artist herself seeks to unveil images through her unique process, she finds herself caught up in a mist, intervals of clarity and obscurity alternating seamlessly. The urge to focus can be seen as parts of the works are crisp in detail and reality. These realities dissected, however, in full view appear as an abstraction. In this carefully arranged mist, Liu presents us with her world, covered not with normal landscapes but a complex visual language of unique imaginary scapes.
Perhaps stemming from concepts of her previous photography series In Between, or her recent paper sculptures, this body of new works brings Liu’s artistic practice to a full circle. Slicing time and rearranging light, Liu positions herself intimately with the photographic medium, where photography’s ability to present reality is often a gift and grit for artists who applies the medium to their practice. Indifferent to photography’s reality and interchanging to her most comfortable style: the act of drawing, Liu freely brings organic life to her new works. Amusingly, stumbling upon Man Ray’s work formerly, became a new momentum and like her predecessor Liu with this new solo of photo-sculptures pioneers through the unknown.