The Liu Jianhua solo exhibition Blank Paper opened at Contemporary Gallery Kunming on January 16, 2021, curated by Cui Cancan, featuring seven large-scale installations from among the artist’s recent work.
Curator Cui Cancan writes:
“Blank Paper” is the title of one of Liu Jianhua’s most representative artworks from recent years, as well as the title of this exhibition. Blank paper symbolizes the beginning of writing and depiction. It can encompass any and all things. It can carry ideas, compose sacredness, or be nothing at all, mere blankness. In this way, “Blank Paper” bestows the exhibition with an entirely new narrative structure, and serves as a symbol of the exhibition.
A piece of “blank paper” is hung on the wall, light, simple, approaching purity and perfection. The slightly-curled corner whispers of the presence of time, while also revealing a core component of Liu Jianhua’s creations: the use of the time and space of “matter” to reawaken our deep perception. Within this perception, specific forms and subject matters are mere appendages. Objects fired from clay bring us back to the origins of the world, to the place of belonging. All things have a place of belonging, an existence that begins as a blank piece of paper. Fire becomes a symbol of eternal persistence.
Multiple spaces stand as different phases of the exhibition, as scattered lines of poetry. Beginning with the arrows suspended in the air, light and shadow swiftly shifting, we enter into a pure, detached journey through time and space. Among these interconnected spaces, some are like chapels, drawing us toward the sacredness of the creator: curving pieces of blank paper, mirror drops of amber; some are like gardens, with disjointed spaces: waves of flames surround us, or perhaps it is the passage of time, while on black plates of iron shimmer golden rays of the noontime sun; some are just rooms, the ordinary objects within them silently deviating ever so slightly from reality. Foam, drops of water, or abstract lines, solemn squares and circles—they are connected, yet also separated by fissures and distances. In these fissures, time can be long or short; in the passage, space can be near or far.
Ceramic is an important path to the realization of this perception. Liu Jianhua has reactivated the significance of “ceramic” in contemporary times, expanding its range, properties and functions. In Liu Jianhua’s hands, ceramic is no longer a term with clear historical properties and regional markers, but a constantly expanding and opening verb. Ceramic has gained its most suitable state of expression, at once irreplaceable as a material, and giving precise expression and elevation to the concepts.
In Liu Jianhua’s works, there is a world that is just as complex as our own, a world summoned by simple forms and objects. Liu Jianhua’s gaze is no longer limited to regional experience, but instead presents a more universal shared human experience, a focus on the existence of time, on the philosophy of matter and nature, on the perception that exists universally in life. In Liu Jianhua’s works, there is always this sense of deja vu. These things are not objects, but senses we have experienced but cannot describe, like the noon sun shining on a concrete floor, a piece of blank paper on a table in the distance, water dripping outside the window at dusk. They do not belong to any particular era. They are the universal presences of this world, multifold projections of memory, space, time and human emotion.
Such perceptions and concepts find echoes in Olafur Eliasson’s sun, in Anish Kapoor’s cloud gate, in On Kawara’s date paintings. Through his continued practice, Liu Jianhua has expanded the meaning of art, a power of perception arising from the limitlessness of vision and the unreachability of philosophy. They are much more moving and distant than any text or reasoning. They are like the principles governing all things. Those which can be explained are not lasting, while those which cannot be explained may reach to the very depths of the heart.
We imagine this exhibition as a piece of blank paper, or perhaps a golden notebook, each turn of the page bringing perceptions that guide the viewer to new circumstances. These circumstances can be historical or individual, covering various facets of Liu Jianhua’s creative trajectory over the past three decades, setting out from the nostalgia of ceramic, then returning, elevating, and in the elevation, forgetting. There are perceptions of cheap foam, the sharpness of arrows, presence and absence in life. There are also natural ones, light, water, wind and fire, interweaving, like dreams, like illusions. But they also seem to lead nowhere at all, simply using art itself to once again discover and point out the eternity we cannot grasp, the light that is sure to pass.
Under the Kunming sun, in Liu Jianhua’s works, there is a truth we seek to understand, but cannot describe in words.