Beijing-based artist Liu Yi is working on a series of black-and-white portraits he knows will never be shown in a Chinese gallery. His varied subjects — men and women, young and old, smiling and pensive – have one thing in common: They are Tibetans who have set themselves on fire to protest repressive Chinese rule.
Liu wants to paint a portrait of each of the hundred-or-so Tibetans who have self-immolated over the past three years, as a way of bearing witness to one of the biggest waves of fiery protests in recent history. With each brushstroke, Liu is making a heartfelt plea: The burning must end.
“When I’m painting, I’m thinking: ‘Enough, enough, don’t do this anymore. Stop,”‘ said the soft-spoken artist who has completed 40 so far. “That’s enough.”