Venice Biennale artist Liu Jianhua

Venice Biennale artist Liu Jianhua

On 16 June the Friends of Te Papa went to view the work of Liu Jianhua, one of China’s best known contemporary artists. This exhibition which was on show at The Dowse Art Museum, was the first time this artist’s work had been seen in New Zealand. The artist himself traveled to The Dowse to help set up the two full-gallery installations.

Regular Fragile is one of his signature works. Cast in white porcelain, it comprises 1500 everyday objects such as those found in Liu Jianhua’s home while he was growing up; torches, bananas, hammers, stilettos and many more items. There were about ten examples of each object. Each time the work is exhibited, the artist arranges the objects differently to fit the space available.  At The Dowse there was room for only 980 items.  Regular Fragile was first exhibited in 2003 in the Chinese Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

The second installation, Square, was a new work never before seen outside China. It featured glistening pools of gold-coated porcelain on sheets of steel which reflect the light of their surroundings. The curator explained that the artist is inviting viewers to consider whether the use of gold makes the work precious and to think about what is precious in their own lives.

After beginning to work with porcelain in 1977, since 2004 Liu Jianhua has been a professor at Shanghai University, teaching in the Sculpture Department of the Fine Arts School.

Feature image: Detail from: Liu Jianhua, Regular Fragile at the Dowse Art Museum, 2016. Photo courtesy of The Dowse Art Museum.