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Liu Jianhua in The First Kyiv international biennale.


The First Kyiv international biennale of contemporaty art ARSENALE 2012

Date: 24.05.12 — 31.07.12

Venue: Mystetskyi Arsenal,St. Lavrska, 10-12, Kyiv, 01010,Commissioner of ARSENALE 2012



Liu Jianhua: The fragility of porcelain objects reflects the human thought that at some point, all of us will 'break'


Liu Jianhua is one of China’s best-known sculpture and installation artists and uses porcelain as his primary material. He was raised in Jiangxi Province, a region that dominated the Chinese pottery industry during the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, and was famous for producing ‘Ji’an wares’, or fine white Chinese pottery. From an early age, Liu worked with his uncle Liu Yuanchang, a Chinese arts and crafts master, in the city of Jingdezhen to learn the craft; he spent a further 14 years at the city’s main ceramics factory. After the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, Liu completed classical training in ceramics and began to encounter Western art. He graduated with a degree in Fine Art from the Jingdezhen Ceramics Institute in 1989 and began his own experimental practice within the contemporary art context.

Liu’s ceramic, porcelain and plastic works are a response to the economic and social changes taking place in China. In his series ‘Regular/Fragile’, first shown at the Chinese Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2003, Liu created uncanny replicas of everyday objects in porcelain ‒ women’s boots, hats, toys, bottles, hammers ‒ that privilege appearance and symbolism over function. As noted by ARSENALE 2012 curator David Elliott, «in the spirit of Duchamp’s readymades, Liu knowingly reclaims such objects of Western ephemera to fit within a traditional Chinese framework, thus elevating their status to something more beautiful, fragile, worthy of care and respect."

Discard 2, 2011, the installation shown here is like a hybrid between a rubbish heap and a disaster zone: some of the porcelain copies of everyday objects have survived unscathed, others have been smashed in random piles as if the force of nature had left them there”.

ARSENALE 2012 asked in Liu Jianhua to comment on the installation presented at ARSENALE 2012.

ARSENALE 2012: Your series is called 'Regular/Fragile'. Many of the exhibited objects play a role in everyday life and serve people for many years. So what do you mean when you call it fragile?

LIU JIANHUA: The fragility of the objects might be a reflection of the human thought that at some point, all of us will break. And for me, this is a way to express how I view any fragile material.

A: So, when we talk about the fragility of things, we actually mean the fragility of people's feelings toward these things?

L.J.: Yes, it's a reflection of people's feelings about things, but I'm more interested in the things themselves. We should pay more attention to these things. Before being made in porcelain, all of them were used for many years by my family and friends. So when you look at them, you actually see directly into the hearts of the people who used them.

A: I've seen some objects that look like they're connected with war or violent protest...

L.J.: Those objects are not used in war; they're just children's toys.

A: And I didn't see any figures of humans or animals made of porcelain - just inanimate objects. If we are talking about the fragility of humans' relations with things, then why don't we see fragile humans and animals?

L.J.: I didn't represent any humans or animals, but all of these everyday objects contain some part of humanity. Maybe it would have made sense to make human or animals figures out of porcelain, but I wanted to create a distance between humans and those objects. It's to clear to see someone who looks like your daughter or your aunt but when you see it through these things it's kind of mysterious. I have been using porcelain for years and have made a lot of human figures out of this material. Showing humanity through inanimate objects is a completely different idea.

A: When something breaks what do you think it becomes?

L.J.: When something breaks, I think, first of all, it creates a new image; it might give the object a new soul. Most importantly it draws attention to the object, if we are talking primarily of fragility.


"Discard 2", Liu Jianhua, porcelain, 700 x 770cm, 2002-2011