As we reported yesterday, this week we are in the porcelain capital of China, the city of Jingdezhen. Jingdezhen is synonymous with the word porcelain here in China. Porcelain is everywhere: in the form of everyday street furniture, porcelain shops and showrooms (the number well into five figures) and craftspeople skilled in the art of porcelain manufacture who work for large enterprises and, indeed, work away on their own.
Today, we had the privilege to meet a young man whose painterly decorating skills far exceed those of many of his older fellow artists. Liu Zhen works in a backstreet of Jingdezhen in a small rented workshop.
Generally, Liu Zheng works on a small scale: he decorates small objects like teacups in the most exquisite detail. His subjects are usually traditional Chinese ones drawn from the ancient history and culture of China. Some are rather more tongue in cheek, like his erotic teacups depicting couples in glorious union! However, he also tackles larger works upon commission. The porcelain panel above was commissioned from him and depicts no less than 87 Chinese gods. Each one is depicted in quite extraordinary detail finely picked out by his amazing brush power. He showed us it in its almost-finished stage: shortly it will be delivered to his customer.
However, he seems rather more comfortable working on a smaller scale. His teacups are breathtaking. On the left above is a teacup which has been decorated prior to firing. The cup on the right has been fired and is ready for sale. Also, in our top picture, he shows a smaller porcelain plaque which he is still working on. You will note how the application of glaze and the firing changes the colour dramatically from a browny-grey to achieve full blue and white effect.
He takes all the credit for his own work. Although it might pass for a Ming or Qing piece, he always adds his own mark (unlike many producers here in Jingdezhen). This can be seen to the base of the cup, right. He is confident enough in his own work to represent it as his own.
That having been said, like all modern artists in China, they draw upon their own ancient culture and we see an old dragon-decorated cover on his desk. Real craftsmen in today’s China continually seek to emulate and surpass past masters.