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Is art temporary or permanent? Time will tell
From:Shanghai Daily  |  2020-04-25 04:29

IS art temporary or permanent? This is not something that can be determined the moment a work of art is created.

Time is the best witness to whether art is temporary or permanent, such as the “Yiwu Survey” installation by Liu Jianhua.

The installation, featuring a series of Chinese export products from an open shipping container in Yiwu, Zhejiang Province, was well received at Shanghai Biennale in 2006, and has been exhibited several times over recent years.

Considered as one of China’s top contemporary artists, Liu first gained fame in the application of contemporary ceramics. He later broadened his horizons fusing several art media ideas to reflect his thoughts, either for art or other social issues.

Born in 1962 in Ji’an, Jiangxi Province, Liu went to work with his uncle, a Chinese arts and crafts master in Jingdezhen, at the age of 12. At that time, he didn’t realize that porcelain would one day become his signature medium.

In 1985, he was admitted to the Fine Arts Department of the Jingdezhen Pottery and Porcelain College, majoring in sculpture.

His early thought-provoking work was a group of headless women in qipao in different postures on ceramic plates, which won him critical acclaim in the art community and opened up a new field of vision in the appreciation of Chinese ceramics.

His later “Regular Fragile” series used ceramics to copy everything around daily life: from a flower, shoes and toys, and even a pillow to a piece of paper and a bone — amazing the viewers not only for their visual impact but also for their subtle zen-like meanings.

Now residing and working in Shanghai, Liu was not content with just being labelled “a contemporary ceramic artist.” He moved on to installation art through various media, from glass, aluminum alloy to iron wires.

His artworks have been widely exhibited and collected by major museums around the world. In 2018, he even had an exhibition “Monumenti” in a monastery in Napoli, Italy, in which his work became stories, journeys and lives.

Last year, Liu published a bilingual book “Clinging to the Surface, Liu Jianhua 2008-2018,” which chronicles his major artworks and interviews over that decade.

“I am always interested to try new spaces, new materials and new concepts,” he said. “I feel the urge to move forward, and each solid step will ripen for the next.”

Q: Tell us about “Yiwu Survey.” And what’s your point toward globalization?

A: When I created “Yiwu Survey” in the early 2000s, I was very excited about the impact of globalization on China and the values or questions brought up by such a background in the country.

Yiwu has the world’s largest small commodities market, selling toys, decorations, underwear, housewares and auto parts. Freight train routes linking the city with Madrid, London, Prague, and Teheran have been put in operation in recent years.

Even today “Yiwu Survey” still leaves an incredible imagination space for viewers. This is the fate of some artworks that their meaning may vary according to the changing of times.

The installation work participated in several exhibitions in the past two years and visitors might have different interpretations toward the work under the background of globalization.

As we become more open and tolerant, we can neither think about globalization in a self-centered angle, nor under an isolated notion of time and space.

Q: Tell us about your bilingual book titled “Clinging to the Surface, Liu Jianhua 2008-2018.”

A: It started in 2017. I had a project that contained a budget for a book. Though each time only a small group of people would come to see an exhibition, I hope that more people from different cultural backgrounds can read the book.

It is also a good time for me to look back at these works, which would help me to reflect on certain questions which have deepened my understanding and choosing the right path in art.

Q: As one of China’s top contemporary artists active on the international art stage, how do you keep amazing the eyes of the viewers?

A: This is a challenge that each artist encounters, because the meaning of art lies in breaking one’s limits for new possibilities.

It is so important for an artist to stay in a good condition. I, like other artists, have set my goals and direction. I hope that I can keep pushing my limits while enjoying the process with all the vitality in my life.

Q: What has your life been like since the coronavirus outbreak?

A: I had some projects that were cancelled or postponed. I don’t think that this is a personal problem.

Everyone is grounded. We all need to adjust our pace in life to cope with the epidemic situation. There are few social gatherings, but it presents an opportunity for me to slow down, pause and to adjust my original work plans.

I finally had some time to read. Last September, I went to Shanxi Province with some friends and we saw many ancient Chinese architecture, murals and sculptures. My major is sculpture at the university, so I read “The History of Chinese Ancient Architecture” and “A Pictorial History of Chinese Architecture.”

I also watched the film “Godfather” twice. The movie is more than a masterpiece on the screen. I like to have a deeper recognition of human nature through these characters. The charisma of a masterpiece is that it will bring you a different experience every time.

Q: Will this epidemic be a theme in your future artworks?

A: Since the outbreak of novel coronavirus, the epidemic has gone beyond the estimation of most people. No one knows for certain how much impact they have had on the lives of people and society.

In my eyes, it has changed the habitual thinking, the working method of an artist and the displaying of artworks as well. Art has the potential to make the world felt. And this felt feeling may spur thinking, engagement and even action.