Liu Jianhua

劉 健嘩

Porcelain Artist, *1962 Ji'an, Jiangxi, lives in Shanghai

Liu Jinhua in his Studio, 2012

Liu Jianhua was born in October 1962 in Ji’an, Jiangxi province. When he was fifteen, he went to work at the Jingdezhen Pottery and Porcelain Sculpturing Factory, Jingdezhen, where he stayed until 1985. He went on to study sculpture at the Department of Fine Art at the Institute of Ceramics in Jingdezhen, graduating in 1989. Since 2004 he has been Associate Professor in the Sculpture Department of the Fine Arts School of Shanghai University

Liu Jianhua is best-known for several series of headless and armless female porcelain figures dressed in cheongsams, a body-hugging one-piece Chinese dress fashionable in the Shanghai of 1920s, and high heels, lying in erotic poses.

Polychrome Porcelain Figures
2000 - 2007


Play Games Series


His female figures are eminently erotic, but there is no hint of their being porno-graphic: they have no faces, no arms, and their cheongsams are well shaped – but empty! Liu made dozens of these “sculptures”, getting larger as the years progressed.


Obsessive Memories Series


What is one as a Westerner to think of his oeuvre? With over 25 solo and group exhibitions in China - and a smaller number in Europe - he is well established as a member of contemporary Chinese art, a professor at Shanghai University. Maybe it is well to remember that explicit eroticism has had a place in Chinese classical literature since the Ming Dynasty, viz. e.g., the 'Jin Ping Mei' ('The Plum in the Lotus Chalice' 1610) or the Carnal Prayer Mat (1675). And sex has been considered a life-extending meditation exercise in Daoism and Mahayana Buddhism even longer. A prurient Western judgement is definitely not appropriate. - But there remains a legitimate artistic question: what comes next? After a decade of playing obsessive games, what else does Mr. Liu have to show?

In 2009 on commission from Louis Voutton Lin constructed a 3-D map of Macau City - from poker chips - entitled 'Unreal Scene' - created specially for their Macao store “to demonstrate Louis Vuitton’s art patronage being closely associated with the cultures and social landscapes of the host cities”. This was followed by another poker-chip map of Shanghai city.....


In a solo exhibition at the Beijing Commune in December 2009 a completely new Liu Jianhua emerged, leaving his Chinese friends surprised and nonplussed.

Reed Raft, 2010, porcelain 20.5 x177.6 x3 cm

Bone, 2010, porcelain ,12 x182 x10 cm

On one wall of a large white space Liu had placed two nearly 2-meter-long ceramics, a reed leaf and a bone....

“Blood-fillled” vessels, 2009

In a corner on the floor of the room stood an assortment of classical vessels filled with a blood-red tansparent glaze.....

“Blank Paper”, 2010, porcelain, 112.5 x 58.2 x 0.4 cm,

In the hall-way leading to the exhibition Liu had placed twenty paper-thin sheets of porcelain, each over a meter high....

“Traces”, 2010, porcelain

...and from a huge wall dripped dark drops of glazed porcelain.....

With his paper-thin sheets and the bone Liu Jianhua is obviously exploring the limits of porcelain making and its traditional use in China. But he denies that these technicalities are his reason d'étre for these pieces. With a smile he acknowleges the “emptiness” of his work but is silent about his thoughts.

In Chinese philosophy there exists since the 6th-century AD a Buddhist school known as “Ch'an, from which developed Zen in 13th-cent Japan. Ch'an is possibly the most perfected Chinese expression of thought. It has in recent years regained a selected following among Chinese intellectuals, and I sugget that this is the source of Liu's extreme minimalism. It is not surprising that he doesn't want to talk about it.

Behind the Lines and Elegance lies Danger, Your Visual Experience.”
August 2012
Pace Galeries, Beijing

Liu's latest “koan”, 公案 is a simple cubic box circled by a row of elegant celadon dinner plates. A thin line ties them together.

Untitled, windowless cubic box, 2012

Celadon plates with a continuing thin stripe, 2012

“1.2-Meters”, Barbed steel fence in the entrance to the cubicle. 2012

The box is empty. A hanging of steel wires, intricately connected by barbed hooks, prevents entry.