Bai cre­ates mas­ter­pieces in­spired by triv­ial, ev­ery­day events

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - LIFE - By DENG ZHANGYU dengzhangyu@chi­

De­spite the Ital­ian opera and the sound of wa­ter boil­ing in a teapot in the back­ground, ce­ramic artist Bai Ming has an aura of quiet­ness as he sits in his Bei­jing stu­dio in front of a tea set. He’s sur­rounded by his porce­lain works, which range from el­e­gant and thin vases to small and ex­quis­ite teacups.

Bai’s quiet­ness finds its way into his ce­ramic works — the pots, plates and cups.

“Porce­lain for me is not a pile of clay. It means the re­la­tion­ship be­tween peo­ple, time and ma­te­rial, which leads me to quiet­ness,” he says.

He adds that after decades of de­vot­ing his time to ce­ramic art, he has learned clay can ex­press it­self via an artist’s hands.

The 51-year-old is known for his ce­ramic works with ab­stract pat­terns in­spired by na­ture, such as green vines, rip­pling wa­ter and stones.

He is one of the few Chi­nese ce­ramic artists who has held large shows in mu­se­ums, within and out­side China.

In 2014, the Cer­nuschi Mu­seum in France staged a Bai solo show, which com­prised his ceram­ics, oil and ink paint­ings, and sculp­tures.

Bai is ob­sessed with ab­stract art, which he says is a kind of cul­tural in­stinct be­cause the Chi­nese first made ceram­ics with ab­stract art thou­sands of years ago.

Bai was born in Yu­gan in Jiangxi province, a town near Jingdezhen, which is cel­e­brated as the home­town of Chi­nese porce­lain.

As a boy, he found play­ing with clay and mak­ing vases, cups and pots was “in­ter­est­ing and mag­i­cal”.

“I didn’t take it se­ri­ously then, he says.

In fact, Bai was first ea­ger to be rec­og­nized as an oil painter after he grad­u­ated from the ceram­ics de­part­ment of the then Cen­tral Academy of Arts and Crafts, which is now the art col­lege of Ts­inghua Uni­ver­sity. He is now di­rec­tor of the ce­ramic de­part­ment there.

“I was crazy about Western art in the 1980s. I read ev­ery­thing avail­able on it,” Bai says.

But the artist says he was des­tined to be­come a ceram­ics artist due to his per­son­al­ity. When he is work­ing, Bai fo­cuses on tiny changes in his en­vi­ron­ment. The fall­ing of leaves or the boil­ing of wa­ter make him think. Be­sides, he is very sen­si­tive to the changes in clay, spe­cially when tool­ing, glaz­ing and fir­ing.

“I feel the pas­sage of time when cre­at­ing my works, some­times it is days, some­times half a year,” he says.

Each porce­lain work Bai cre­ates is an ex­pres­sion of his emo­tions or a re­flec­tion on life and time.

“I need only triv­ial things to in­spire me,” he says.

Bai says he once bought a book by a French poet at a flea mar­ket in Paris. And he en­joyed star­ing at the book for hours al­though he did not know the lan­guage.

But things like the hand­writ­ing on the front page and the ob­vi­ous cof­fee stains on it in­trigued him, which re­sulted in him cre­at­ing a work to ex­plore time and life.

Tea and mu­sic run through Bai’s daily life.

The first thing he does after he wakes up every morn­ing is to make a pot of tea and let opera or sym­phony mu­sic fill his house.

He says his love of drink­ing tea is sparked by pro­duc­ing teacups, pots and plates.

Mean­while, Zhou Chang - jiang, an oil painter and a long­time friend of the artist, says Bai and his porce­lain works are an in­te­grated whole. He says he can see Bai in his works. Zhou says Bai is the kind of gifted artist you can­not pro­duce by train­ing.

Bai says he has a nat­u­ral fond­ness for tra­di­tional Chi­nese cul­ture. He adds that he will never stop be­ing in­no­va­tive when trans­form­ing this tra­di­tional beauty into mod­ern art.

Bai, who also pro­duces porce­lain sculp­tures and in­stal­la­tions and paints on plates, now uses 3-D print­ing to in­no­vate.

“The process of pro­duc­ing a porce­lain work in­volves know­ing your­self and the world,” he says.

A ret­ro­spec­tive show on Bai will be held at the Bei­jing Min­sheng Art Mu­seum in April.


Porce­lain works by Bai Ming.


Ce­ramic artist Bai Ming in his Bei­jing stu­dio. Bai is known for his ce­ramic works with ab­stract pat­terns in­spired by na­ture.

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