Ma Liuming

born 1969

In Tate Britain


Ma Liuming 马六明 (born 1969 in Huangshi, Hubei province) is a contemporary Chinese painter active in performance art. He is known most of all for his exploration of the power and poetry of public nudity in China, where such behavior was strictly forbidden. That is why he has been the target of government censorship, unable to perform in his own country for most of his career.

In 1981 Ma Liuming started to study oil painting with tutor Cai Erhe. He graduated from Hubei Institute of Fine Arts in 1991 (MFA) in the Oil Painting Department. Two years later, he was one of the founders of Beijing East Village, an artists colony on the outskirts of Beijing. In the early 1990s it became a nexus for experimental art forms. One of Ma Liuming's first performances was called "Fen-Ma Liuming’s Lunch 1", a collaboration with Zhang Huan and Zhu Ming in 1994. He sat, completely nude, sucking a plastic tube that was attached to his penis. In 1994 Ma Liuming was arrested for a period of two months because of works like this. Many of the artists of the Beijing East Village fled in response to this police action.

In order to match his own uniquely androgynous appearance Ma Liuming developed his own performance persona – Fen-Ma Liuming, a hybrid figure of male and female components.

Next to performances painting is a key component in his works. Since 2000, he has developed his "Baby series", in which the face of Fen-Ma Liuming appears on infant's bodies. It is a surrealistic image that is both disturbing and laughable. Through different mediums such as performance, painting and photography Ma Liuming continues to investigate the limits of provocation, seducing his audience into considering more intriguing matters.

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