Liu Jianhua was born in Ji’an Jiangxi Province China in 1962. The medium he chooses to use is ceramics. Having been taught the craft of ceramics from a very young age and having graduated in Fine Art at the Jingdezhen Ceramics Institute in 1989, he is today one of the most important contemporary installation artists working in the ceramic medium in China.
Liu’s work after 2008, as exemplified in this series, alerts viewers to the changes continually re-shaping China and extending its cultural heritage into contemporary times.
In this beautiful celadon work 'Container Series' 2009, Liu acknowledges the magnificent ceramic heritage of China by re-creating traditional ritual vessel shapes such as stem cups and 'gu' ( wine vessel), and placing them alongside more contemporary shapes to present an impressive installation of 37 pieces of varying size and shape. The pieces are randomly arranged, in contrast to the formal presentation of temple and imperial settings of the past. Arranged as an installation they are placed as on a blank canvas. Liu has used a celadon glaze, in emulation of the classic greenwares of the Song dynasty (960-1279). All the pieces look to be filled with a red liquid, but the ceramics are in fact hollow, with a red glaze on top of each piece giving the illusion of liquid. Like the celadon, the red is another classic of the Chinese ceramic repertoire, traditionally known as 'sang de boeuf' or oxblood ('langyao hong'). The way the artist has used the two colours to dramatically contrasting effect is innovative and effective. The red colour evokes blood, and the work may be a homage to those whose blood has been spilt in the pursuit of specific goals. Each piece is handmade and thrown on a wheel. They were glazed first with the celadon then the red 'langyao hong' glaze, after which they were fired only once in a kiln at about 1342 degrees centigrade. Most parts were made in varying numbers of editions.
Eugene Tan has noted of Liu’s work that it, 'reflects the complex ontological relation between the production of consumer goods in China and the international art system, thereby also reflecting the recent, rapid growth of the Chinese contemporary art market.' (Tan, undated) As such, Liu's work makes allusions to the present situation in China both culturally and economically.
Eugene Tan, ‘Transformation of the Everyday’, http://www.beijingcommune.com, accessed 4 August 2010.
Asian Art Department, AGNSW, October 2010.
Place where the work was made
porcelain with celadon and red glaze; 37 pieces
a - large platter; 69 x 5 cm; [140, no. 4]
b - large platter; 69 x 5 cm; [147, no.3]
c - large platter with rim; 68.5 x 5 cm; [149, no.5]
d - large round pot; 24.5 x 33.2 cm; [B1]
e - large round pot; 27 x 33 cm; [B2 (1)]
f - large straight pot; 26 x 30 cm; [C1 (7)]
g - large straight pot; 25.7 x 30.3 cm; [C2 (3)]
h - large vase; 29.5 x 17.5 cm; [D1 (85) [Box D1]; 11.0cm diam. of rim
i - large vase; 29.5 x 17.5 cm; [D2 (87) [Box D2, 8.7]; 10.6cm diam. of rim
j - large vase; 29.5 x 17.5 cm; [D4 (88) [Box D4, 8.8]; 9.7cm diam. of rim
k - large vase; 29.5 x 17.5 cm; [D6 (66) [Box D6, 13.6]
l - vase; 29.5 x 11.6 cm; [E1 (52) [Box E1]
m - wine vessel (gu); 35 x 17.5 cm; [F4 (13) [Box F4, 12.3]
n - wine vessel (gu); 35.2 x 17.5 cm; [F5 (10) [Box F2]
o - wine vessel; 33 x 18.5 cm; [G1 (28) [Box: G1, 10.2]
p - wine vessel; 33 x 18.5 cm; [G2 (31) [Box: G2, 10.2]
q - jar; 17.5 x 22.9 cm; [H1 (14(?) [Box: H, 21.4]
r - jar; 17.5 x 23 cm; [H2 (144) [Box: H2, 25.0]
s - jar; 16 x 22.5 cm; [H3 (142) [Box: H3, 25.10]
t - jar; 22.9 x 17 cm; [H4 (17)]
u - jar; 17.5 x 22.5 cm; [H5 (15) [Box: H5, 21.2]
v - bowl; 10.5 x 23.4 cm; [I3 (92) [Box I3, 16.7]
w - bowl; 11 x 23 cm; [I5 (95) [Box I5, 16.5]
x - bowl; 11.3 x 23.1 cm; [I6 (93) [Box I6, 16.4]
y - bowl; 12 x 24.8 cm; [J8 (35) [Box J8, 19.2]
z - bowl; 11 x 24.7 cm; [J7 (40) [Box J7, 20.1]
aa - large bowl; 13.7 x 25 cm; [K7 (36) [Box K7]
bb - bowl; 8 x 27.8 cm; L2 (26) [Box L2]
cc - stem cup; 17 x 12.9 cm; [M1 (76) [Box: M1, 18.8]
dd - stem cup; 17 x 12.9 cm; [M2 (74) [Box: M2, 18.5]
ee - stem cup; 17.3 x 12.7 cm; [M3 (70) [Box:M3, 18.3]
ff - stem cup; 17 x 12.9 cm; [M4 (72) [Box: 18.1]
gg - flat bowl; 9 x 22.9 cm; [N1 (55) [Box N1, 9.2]; chip on rim
hh - flat bowl; 8.8 x 22.9 cm; [N2 (19) [Box N2, 9.7]
ii - flat bowl; 9 x 22.9 cm; [N7 (59) [Box N7, 9.1]
jj - flat bowl; 12.5 x 11.7 cm; [O1 (80) [Box O1, 8.1]
kk - round bowl; 9.5 x 24 cm; [P1 (42) [box P1]
Signature & date
Black ink signature of the artist on the underside of each piece: signed in Chinese characters and dated 2009.
Gift of the artist and Beijing Commune with financial assistance from the Peter John McBurney Fund 2010
© LUI Jianhua
Where the work was made
Shown in 3 exhibitions
The Beauty of Distance: Songs of Survival in a Precarious Age. 17th Biennale of Sydney, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 12 May 2010–01 Aug 2010
One hundred flowers (2011), Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 01 Sep 2011–15 Jan 2012
Conversations through the Asian collections, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 25 Oct 2014–28 Feb 2016
Referenced in 2 publications
David Elliot, The Beauty of Distance: Songs of Survival in a Precarious Age: 17th Biennale of Sydney, Woolloomooloo, 2010, 195 (colour illus.), 294.
Justin Paton, Look, Conversations. A new way to engage with the Gallery's Asian art, pg 22-13, Sydney, Oct 2014, 23.