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Matilda Liu

1883 meets Matilda Liu, the curator of Meeting Point Projects, to discuss Uncarved Block, Unbleached Silk, an exhibition exploring Japanese aesthetics.

London-based Matilda Liu is an independent curator and collector with roots in China and the US, and a keen interest for cross-cultural pollination.

Liu’s latest curatorial venture, Meeting Point Projects, aims to explore the intersections between contemporary art, cuisine and culture at large. Drawing together artists and creatives from the most diverse backgrounds, the project provides a platform for audiences to experience and engage with art in new, unexpected ways that challenge canonical approaches to curation.

Meeting Point Projects will officially launch with an exhibition titled Uncarved Block, Unbleached Silk, at 30 Tottenham Street, London, from 20th May through 7th June. With works spanning sculpture, ceramics, woodcarving, painting and photography, the show promises to offer a fresh perspective on the relation between space, context and medium across art and design.

Uncarved Block, Unbleached Silk hinges on the Japanese aesthetic concept of Yūgen. Adapted from the Chinese term Yōu Xuán, in which Yōu means ‘slightly hidden’ – and Xuán, ‘a profound, distant darkness’, the notion has crossed cultures, languages and disciplines to become a byword for subtle, suggestive, concealed beauty.

A deep sense of introspection permeates the exhibition, as it unfolds into a compelling examination of transience and ephemerality. Looking at contemporary productions through the lens of Japanese tradition, Uncarved Block, Unbleached Silk highlights the enduring influence and significance of Yūgen aesthetics on Western and Eastern art practices that favour the understated over excess.

Uncarved Block, Unbleached Silk features a carefully selected roster of emerging and well-established artists that includes: David Abbott; Lihong Bai; Woojung Ghil; Antony Gormley; Shana Hoehn; Anne-Carney Raines; Changpeng Li; Unu Sohn; Hotaru Tachi; Youyou Wang; Francesca Woodman.

In conversation with 1883 Arts Editor, Matilda Liu discusses her curatorial project and upcoming exhibition, and reflects on the abiding legacy of Yūgen aesthetics.


Hotaru Tachi, Lurking deep within the words, 2023 Pencil on bookshelf, wood Uncarved Block, Unbleached Silk curated by Matilda Liu

Hello Matilda, thank you for agreeing to the interview. Can you tell us a bit about yourself? When did your interest in art first begin?

I am a London-based collector and independent curator. I grew up in Chengdu, China, and Southern California. In 2017, I came to London to study curation at Central Saint Martins. Having grown up as a third-culture kid constantly battling identity crisis, I immediately fell in love with how post-passport London is. I love how the dynamic art and social scene here feeds my curiosity about people and places. This investigation of cultural geography and experience with shifting social identities continues to be a key driver of both my collecting and curatorial work.

Art has always been my favourite and best subject at school. Growing up I was always drawing and creating my own characters and comic books. I wanted to be an artist. However, being a great artist demands an obsessiveness and discipline that I don’t have, and I find it very lonely. So I veered myself towards roles and projects that allow me to be in touch with artists and others’ art and creativity.


Antony Gormley, Small Veer, 2018 Cast Iron Uncarved Block, Unbleached Silk curated by Matilda Liu

Can you tell us more about your journey into curation? When did you know you wanted to be a curator? What was your career path into this job?

As I mentioned, I always knew I wanted to do something with art and culture. What contemporary curating means was introduced to me through my undergraduate degree and through going to museum shows. This is how I learned that it’s not just about picking pretty works and decorating walls. It is about storytelling and contextualising ongoing social and cultural dialogues and concerns.

I started curating independently right after completing my MA at Sotheby’s. For my first show ever, I had the opportunity to organise a group exhibition for 180 Strand here in London. I jumped into everything with very little practical experience. It was an extremely steep learning curve, particularly with logistics and business admin. But there’s nothing like learning on the job. It was also very rewarding to see my vision come together, connecting with people who are totally committed to their crafts and passions, and providing a launching platform for emerging artists.


Francesca Woodman, From Space, Providence, Rhode Island, 1976 Gelatin silver estate print Uncarved Block, Unbleached Silk curated by Matilda Liu

How would you describe your approach to curation?

There’s a quote by this classical pianist Glenn Gould that I think about a lot. It goes: “The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline but rather the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity.” My approach to curating is the same as my approach to collecting. I think there should be a value system and world-building at the centre that is accumulative and timeless.

Timeless not in the sense that individual artworks cannot be about specific issues or time or particular environments. Rather, timeless in the sense that I am looking for works, artists, and ways of engaging with art that are self-aware, and ask honest questions about the world and its different human experiences. So rather than chasing ideological, stylistic, and market trends, I think curating should be guided by researching, gathering, and connecting voices and pieces of history that are sincere and emotionally, spiritually enriching for the audience.

What would you say is the most challenging part of your job? And what is the most rewarding?

The most challenging is definitely the speed of at which images, information, and events are generated and circulated constantly. It makes it increasingly hard for everyone, especially newcomers, to find their purpose and footing. Along with the pressure of keeping up with rent, art fairs, shipping, audience engagement. It is indeed increasingly difficult for young artists, galleries, and even collectors, to balance emotional and artistic integrity with financial responsibility.

The most rewarding part is that the art world still is truly a place where most people joined because of passion and dedication. Being a curator and collector makes you think deeply. It connects you with amazing talents and people who also think and feel deeply.


Youyou Wang, Ceramics Uncarved Block, Unbleached Silk curated by Matilda Liu

Tell us about your curatorial initiative, Meeting Point Projects. How did it come into being?

Meeting Point Projects is an initiative dedicated to discovering, gathering, and living with contemporary art, culture, and cuisine. It is a programme of pop-up exhibitions and events focused on highlighting the exchange between contemporary artists, makers, and creatives from diverse cultural backgrounds, at different stages of careers, and across various disciplines.

Meeting Point Projects exhibits new works by emerging and young contemporary artists often alongside works from private collections. The aim is to support emerging contemporary artistic talents by creating critical contexts within which art and culture can be shown and engaged with.

As I continue to collect personally, there are a lot of questions and ideas I want to experiment with. This project is an opportunity for me to expand my own critical engagement with my collection by showing works I collect in different settings. It also allow me to support young and emerging artists by contextualising their development against the larger ecosystem.

My favourite place to view art is in artist studios and collectors’ homes. I love seeing the private world building that happens on the individual and accumulative level. In these contexts, you get to see how artworks are embedded in an entire system of aesthetic identity. One informed by a lifetime of experiences, habits, routines, beliefs, and traditions. It is this critical dialogue across disciplines, spaces, and personalities that I am most interested in. It is what inspires my curatorial initiative. How is art a part of life?

Food and dining are another medium of world building that matters to me. This is why you’ll definitely see cuisine as a large focus of the Meeting Point Projects through my engagement with supper clubs, chefs, ceramic, glassware, and other ‘useable’ creative mediums to blur the line between fine art and design. The idea is to create an environment where one can uncover the cultural contexts behind creative practices and understand the critical relevance of art to everyday life.


Shana Hoehn, Breast Bracket #10 with Double Mushroom, 2023 Aluminum with Patina Uncarved Block, Unbleached Silk curated by Matilda Liu

I would like to ask you about your upcoming exhibition, Uncarved Block, Unbleached Silk. What can we expect to see in the show?

You can expect to see a range of contemporary artworks in various mediums, and by artists from different countries and stages of career. Critically acclaimed and established contemporary artists will be in dialogue with recent art school graduates. From my own collection, I am presenting a small Blockwork by Antony Gormley and three vintage photographs by Francesca Woodman.

For emerging, there is this very cool wood-carving Japanese artist Hotaru Tachi showing in London for the first time. There are also Youyou Wang, and Unu Sohn who engage with ceramics as both design objects and fine art. There is South Korean artist Woojung Ghil, whose abstract works are all about silence and inner screening.

I feel especially lucky about the timing. The exhibition is in fact coinciding with Gormley’s major installation commission at Houghton Hall, and Woodman’s exhibition at National Portrait Gallery. It’s indeed really amazing to be able to introduce emerging artists in context with these veterans at a moment where they are experiencing incredible institutional recognition.


David Abbott, Tied to a Mystery, 2024 Oil on panel Uncarved Block, Unbleached Silk curated by Matilda Liu

At the heart of Uncarved Block, Unbleached Silk is the Japanese aesthetic concept of Yūgen. Can you expand on this further?

Yes, Yūgen is closely associated with Zen Buddhism. It conveys a profound appreciation for the subtlety and evocativeness of the natural world and the transient nature of existence. It is expressed in East Asian art’s focus on spiritual introspection and mindful simplicity. I want to introduce it as an interpretive tool in the context of international contemporary art as a foil to the brightness and clarity of Western art principles and traditions.

Japanese aesthetic terms like Wabi-Sabi are often internationally referenced, particularly by European designers like Rose Uniacke and Axel Vervoodt. However, I feel the deeper spiritual and philosophical value systems behind these widely adapted Asian concepts are glossed over. That’s why I wanted to explore Yūgen, and how it continues to shape international art practices and visual culture.


Woojung Ghil, Prayer 7, Oil on canvas Uncarved Block, Unbleached Silk curated by Matilda Liu

What do you wish for audiences to take away from the exhibition?

That East Asian art and philosophical traditions have indeed had a major influence on shaping contemporary Western visual culture and international art history. It’s interesting to consider the reading of contemporary art from another angle and attitude. I also want collectors to look at art as an ongoing discourse connecting every generation and genre. It’s worthwhile to look at and collect across categories and price points.

And finally, what does the future hold in store for you and Meeting Point Projects?

Exhibition wise, I am planning another exhibition in September focused on all emerging Chinese or Chinese heritage artists. Another one on contemporary abstract expressionist works will open in early 2025. I am also working on forming a dining events series centred around exploring the anthropology of food. I don’t want to promise anything too concrete or specific at this stage in case things work out differently.

But for me, I want to continue collecting and curating in a way that makes me feel connected to the works and the artists. For Meeting Point Projects, I certainly want it to be a programme that continues to ask interesting questions. A place where artists from all mediums and stages of career feel they are making meaningful connections.

Uncarved Block, Unbleached Silk runs from 20th May through 7th June at 30 Tottenham Street, London.

Further information about the exhibition and Matilda Liu at www.matildaliu.com

Interview Jacopo Nuvolari

Featured image: Matilda Liu by Iona Wolff

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