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Chinese artist redefines porcelain art to go global

Master of the craft Lai Dequan bridges Eastern tradition with Western aesthetics

By Zhao Ruinan in Jingdezhen, Jiangxi | China Daily | Updated: 2024-05-01 07:22
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Visitors appreciate Jingdezhen ceramic artworks exhibited in Paris in January. The exhibition marked the 60th anniversary of the establishment of China-France diplomatic ties. [Photo provided to CHINA DAILY]

In 1993, when Lai Dequan went to Japan to exchange ideas with local artists, he left them astonished.

Lai is a master of porcelain art. Every step of making porcelain is second nature to him, from shaping and glazing to finishing paintings on porcelain or ceramic plates.

"We were at the home of a Japanese potter. Japanese potters at that time thought Chinese ceramic artists were like 'porcelain fossils', only capable of painting and decorating ceramics," Lai said.

Lai indeed painted for them, but when they later challenged his knowledge of the subsequent steps for making porcelain, he proved them wrong. For Lai, who had worked as a technical director in a ceramics factory, the answers were elementary.

"I told them the right temperature to fire the glazed colors and the specific steps to follow. They were amazed, saying I was a very different kind of artist," Lai said.

Taking his art pieces out of China and exchanging ideas with international peers is common for Lai. He has visited Japan nine times and participated in three Asia-wide ceramic art festivals.

He has exhibited his works in over 10 countries and regions, including Japan, the United States, Canada, Singapore, South Korea, Australia and Indonesia.

"Part of art is about communication," Lai said. "In March, two mayors from Italy came to Jingdezhen for a visit. They were excited when they visited my art gallery, saying the colors in my paintings resembled those of Vincent Van Gogh and Oscar-Claude Monet. They were surprised by the richness of ceramic art."

Lai is a Chinese master of arts and crafts with an extended family heritage in porcelain and ceramic art.

The 69-year-old was born and lives in Jingdezhen, a city in East China's Jiangxi province. It is often called the porcelain capital for its essential role in the domestic and international ceramic industry.

Lai's grandfather was a famous ceramic artist in Jingdezhen during the Republic of China era (1911-49).

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