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Interview with Liu Jianhua.
Still from the Smart Museum's interview with Liu Jianhua.

Liu Jianhua 刘建华

Chinese, born 1962

Artist Profile

As a teenager, Liu Jianhua was introduced to porcelain by his uncle, a ceramist in the famous porcelain-making city of Jingdezhen. This early exposure was influential: since then the artist has used the pure white clay to produce all of his work.

Porcelain is known as one of the most delicate and difficult artistic materials, often demanding a great deal of technical mastery to produce. Blank Paper and Black Flame, two of Liu’s porcelain works featured in this exhibition, explore the characteristics of porcelain and infuse them with a contemporary sensibility. Often displayed in a row on a wall, Liu’s blank porcelain papers simultaneously challenge the viewer’s eyes and mind. Inspired by the unique properties of porcelain, the artist remarked, “Although one can use fiberglass, steel, wood, stone, or any other material to represent a piece of paper, none of them can compete with porcelain that only comes into existence after being fired at over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit.”1

Black Flame consists of eight thousand black porcelain flames that suggest the possibility of a rapidly spreading fire flickering across the gallery floor. The glaze is a key element of this work: its matte shade creates layers of pure blackness. The pool of sharp flames appears menacing; in stark contrast to the calming quality of Blank Paper, it is imposing. As a pair, these two works show us the range of emotions that porcelain can elicit, through two very different manipulations of the material.

Liu Jianhua. Photo courtesy of the artist.
“I was thinking about using porcelain to make something pure and simple, but exceedingly challenging at the same time. The challenge shouldn’t be displayed on the surface, but should become part of the object’s intrinsic quality.”
—Liu Jianhua 2

Footnotes

  • 1

    Liu Jianhua in conversation with Wu Hung, May 17, 2018.

  • 2

    Ibid.

Works on View

Wrightwood 659

Black Flame, 2017

Porcelain
Dimensions variable

Collection of the artist, courtesy of Pace Gallery

Liu Jianhua, Black Flame, 2017. Installation view, The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2019–2020. Photo courtesy of © Museum Associates/LACMA.
Liu Jianhua, Black Flame, 2017. Installation view, The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2019–20. Photo © Museum Associates/LACMA.
Smart Museum of Art

Blank Paper, 2009–12

Porcelain
Each: 79 1/8 x 40 1/2 x 3/8 in. (201 x 103 x 0.8 cm)

Collection of the artist, courtesy of Pace Gallery

Liu Jianhua, Blank Paper, 2009-12. Installation view, The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2019–2020. Video still comissioned by the Smart Museum of Art.
Liu Jianhua, Blank Paper, 2009–12. Installation view, The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2019–20. Still from video commissioned by the Smart Museum of Art.
Liu Jianhua, Blank Paper, 2009-12.
Liu Jianhua, Blank Paper, 2009–12. Detail. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Working Process

Liu Jianhua installing the work Black Flame (2017) for an exhibition at the Today Art Museum, Beijing. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Liu Jianhua installing Black Flame (2017) for an exhibition at the Today Art Museum, Beijing. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Studio assistants rolling out clay in Lin Jianhua's studio. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Studio assistants rolling out clay in Lin Jianhua's studio. Photo courtesy of the artist.
A studio assistant smoothing out the clay surface of a work. Photo courtesy of the artist.
A studio assistant smoothing out the clay surface of a work. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Liu Jianhua molding clay to create the slightly upturned corner of Blank Paper (2009). Photo courtesy of the artist
Liu Jianhua molding clay to create the slightly upturned corner of Blank Paper (2009). Photo courtesy of the artist.
Liu Jianhua smoothing out the clay surface of a work. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Liu Jianhua smoothing out the clay surface of a work. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Studio assistants polishing the surface of a work. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Studio assistants polishing the surface of a work. Photo courtesy of the artist.