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

A visitor views artist Liu Jianhua's installation series Trace, which features porcelain drops on a wall.[Photo provided to China Daily]

But after reading Auguste Rodin: L'Art, by Paul Gsell, he was inspired to change tack: learn sculpture in college.

After about three years of preparations, Liu was enrolled in the sculpture department of Jingde-zhen Ceramic Institute in 1985. He thought he would never touch ceramic clay ever again.

After graduation, he landed a teaching job at an art college in Kunming in Southwest China's Yunnan province. Meanwhile with great vigor, he experimented in the contemporary art field.

His early works, mostly semi-abstract sculptures, expressed a certain amount of self awareness. He tried out various materials from mud to wood to colored fiberglass. In the Inharmonious series of 1994, he modeled a woman's body parts with fiberglass to mock consumerism on the rise in Chinese society.

But porcelain came into his life in a big way with the Memories of Infatuation series. His perspective of art had changed by then. He returned to Jingdezhen and found that no medium other than porcelain could give his work the texture and effect he desired, and created ceramic qipao (cheongsam dress) sculptures, human female forms without heads and upper limbs but only legs wearing high-heeled shoes.

Liu says that the tightness of the cheongsam is comparable to the repressed sexual curiosity of adolescence among Chinese who were born in his generation - the 1960s.

Through his qipao series, he seeks to show the contradictions between traditional culture and the modern world. The sophistication of ceramic texture, the shapes of cheongsam and the twisted legs are all meant to bring to the fore social issues triggered by consumerism, such as changes in the relationship between men and women.

"Porcelain looks hard, but it is actually fragile. So is life. Beautiful things in life will eventually be broken," he says.

Porcelain has recurred as the main material in Liu's many creations in the past few years. He has taken advantage of its many features to highlight the dilemma of urban development. Since 2008 he has been exploring the subject of "no meaning, no content" in this regard.

He detaches porcelain from the cliches associated with it to make the material speak to the social problems. Liu experiments with it to magnify personal emotions by enriching the form and presentation of porcelain.

"The more I work with porcelain, the more I discover its possibilities as the novelty medium of expression."

If you go

10 am-7 pm, Mondays to Sundays, 10 am-9 pm on Fridays, through March 15.

Singapore Art Museum, 71 Bras Basah Road, Singapore. 65-65899-580.






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