Latest works from Liu Jianhua showing at Beijing Commune are emerging with peaceful but challenging artistic concepts. He engaged with Chinese traditional porcelain to create a contrast between reality and illusion. He magnifies and purifies the truth of matters with his realistic approach which focuses on the comparison of the choice of materials and the value of subject matters. From the Untitled series (2008), we can see the trajectory of Liu’s works have been shifting from emphasis of ironic phenomena in society nowadays, exploration of cultural and historical issues to more thoughtful topic of existence. He is eliminating elements in his works, which finally leading to an abstract way of eastern thinking, nihilism. This is like looking for an answer in emptiness. Through these fragile but also strong Chinese traditional porcelain installations, Liu Jianhua conceived a sense of detachment in everyday context.
Within the Chinese contemporary art context, there are full of social intervention and symbols of our reality, while Liu Jianhua takes the reversed direction on his art creation path among the trend of using symbols. And we can find a clue of his change in last year’s exhibition at Beijing Commune showing his Untitled series. In the flattened porcelain sculptures, all the details of faces and containers are eliminated, which only left the contours. If you try to relate these works with reality, you will find no ways to link them, as all the association in between are demolished. In fact, Liu Jianhua is carrying out a new possibility of contemporary art with some-thousands-years Chinese culture through his non-narrative and desymbolized artworks. “Liu Jianhua – Horizon” at Beijing Commune is the latest presentation of his exploration within the withdrawal of those popular “contemporary” elements in his works.
“Horizon” is a conceptually infinitely extended boundary between the earth and the sky, but it never exists in anywhere of our world. Or in another word, it’s an abstract line that presented in a realistic way. To title the exhibition as “Horizon” is because the abstractness and concreteness of Liu’s artworks are coherent with the unique characteristic of “horizon”. We can obviously see the difference between this exhibition and the Untitled series, as the artworks showing this time, Bone, Blank Paper series, Container series and A Reed Raft, are all giving a concrete recognition of the represented objects. If you describe Untitled series as an obvious resistant reaction of Liu Jianhua towards concepts and symbols, then “Horizon” will be an exhibition with a concealed and detached attitude. Like, when we are gazing the porcelain “reed raft” on the almost empty wall, it’s hard for us to retrieve any information familiar to us in everyday life. It’s seemingly just a piece of reed; we may simply be notified western minimalism in our first glance of the Blank Paper series, but with a closer look, the subtle details in the slightly coiled corners of each paper, which are magnified by the use of porcelain as medium, will tell the difference between Liu’s works from the basic use of points, lines and faces in western abstract style and minimalism. Because of the ineffectiveness of connecting these artworks with our contemporary context, we find a new perspective to embrace to the pursue of “impression” and “implications” in our traditional Chinese culture. This is why ancient Chinese painters can evoke infinite spiritual connotation even they were drawing explicit sceneries, and this is how this relationship between abstractness and concreteness is different from western conceptual art.
Chinese contemporary art is always searching for its own identity within the global contemporary art scene where art from various cultures are getting more and more homogenized. This exploration process was started with simple and explicit symbols. When these symbols and icons become abused, there are artists seeking a connection between their works from their origin. And these transformations are often take place in a hidden and subtle way, just like those “blank papers” by Liu Jianhua which having slightly coiled corner, they are gently provoking the tradition of western conceptual art.