“Porcelain is the medium that can best express my thinking.”

Born 1962, Ji’an, Jianxi. Lives and works in Shanghai

As a teenager studying pottery-making in Jingdezhen, China’s ancient china-making centre, Liu Jianhua grew bored. Then it dawned on him that porcelain did not just mean vases, cups and plates; it could take any form at all. He has been experimenting with its possibilities ever since. “I try to explore undeveloped aspects of ceramics,” he says. In recent years his aesthetic has grown simpler and his forms closer to those of nature—changes that reflects his growing sense of life’s “fragility and emptiness”. Fallen Leaves (2012) consists of 5000 individually formed and fired porcelain leaves, which for the artist symbolise time, life and the fate of the soul. Dead leaves in the street are so common we hardly notice them, he says. Placing porcelain simulacra on the floor of a gallery makes viewers look twice, and recall their own meanings and memories. His celadon-glazed Vessels (2009) are filled with a rich red sang de boeuf, or lang yao, glaze that resembles blood. The series alludes to death, the artist says, but what kind of death—whether by ritual sacrifice, martyrdom or murder—he leaves for the viewer to decide.

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