Artist Liu Jianhua: reflecting social problems in porcelain

By Lin Qi ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-02-17 07:46:13

Artist Liu Jianhua: reflecting social problems in porcelain

Liu works at his studio in Shanghai.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Liu Jianhua is trying to break down the cliches associated with the delicate material to make it reflect social problems, Lin Qi reports.

After working with porcelain for many years, Liu Jianhua believes that the process of making an artwork is more important than what materials are used to create it.

In his installation series Trace, which is now on display at the Singapore Art Museum, Liu has put up black, ink drop-like porcelain pieces on a white wall, giving the impression of something dripping. The series won the 53-year-old professor of sculpture the Jurors' Choice Award of the Asia-Pacific Breweries Foundation Signature art prize in 2014.

Liu says he was inspired by wu lou hen (rain stains on the wall of a leaking house), an expression in Chinese calligraphy, where ink strokes are compared to shapes of water stains.

The artist, who teaches at Shanghai University, says that he changes the presentation of Trace according to different exhibition venues. At the Singapore Art Museum, for instance, he placed the porcelain drops on a wall near the spiral staircase that connects the first and second floors. As audiences climb up the stairs, more and more drops come into view.

"The 'ink drops' are like traces of the human mind and imprints of the human soul," Liu says. "When people enter this tranquil space, leaving behind the hustle and bustle of the real world, I hope the work will soothe their conflicted psyches."

At the age of 12, Liu left his native city of Ji'an in eastern China's Jiangxi province, for the town of the country's "pottery capital" Jingdezhan.

He apprenticed under his uncle, a technician at a local ceramic factory in the town, and received lessons in pottery for years.

Liu's gifts and diligence won him top prizes in Jingdezhen and at the national level too. Yet no matter how superb his skills were, Liu says, he then saw a bleak future for himself, imagining that he would most likely end up as a "replaceable screw on a production line", much like retired workers from his uncle's workshop.

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