On October 13th 2018, Bai Ming, well-known Chinese artist and writer, winner of Artist of the Year 2019, delivered an address in Frankfurt Book Fair, sharing with audiences his thoughts about traditional Chinese porcelain and his new book Bai.
The full address is as follows:
The world is very familiar with Chinese porcelain as it's famous in everywhere. You may never fail to find the presentation of Chinese porcelain in each small and big museums worldwide. Today’s China, which is important in the communication of both art and culture, has become an active and indispensable role in the world. In today's art and culture, as for me, one important element which should never be neglected or ignored is the Chinese porcelain as porcelain has entered the life of every family and deeply changed our life quality since it was invented. How to show the unique beauty of traditional Chinese porcelain to the world in a contemporary way is the pursuit of Chinese ceramic artists.
In the field of ceramic art, Chinese artists are endowed with talent and accomplishments of traditional arts. Many people are attracted and shocked by the exquisite of porcelain and the superior artistry applied during creating process. They start to pay attention to the artists who create these fine arts and their thoughts. As a matter of fact, Chinese artists are the same as other foreign artists, possessing matchless craftsmanship. However, Chinese artists are more willing to learn from the materials they use instead of determining how to master the materials in line with their emotions. There is no other forms of art requiring such a long time for us to see its final shape. It will take a few months, or even a year's time for a soft clay to become an exquisite porcelain. During the long period of time, the porcelain material is changing, as well as the ideas and emotions of the artists.
We used to spend quite a lot of time and energy to learn from the ancient times and old tradition the artistic form of porcelain, trying to fuse together our craftsmanship and what we want to convey. However, being a contemporary artist, I have encountered a confusion whenever I try to make my work more complete. The confusion, which gets more complicated when I manage to make my work as exquisite as the traditional ones, is actually in 21 century, how to create a new artistic form indicating the future world and at the same time, being different from the traditional ones. Taking one step ahead is extremely difficult, as the practice of every single artist has been proved to be taken by the predecessors. Therefore, when facing the confusion, we contemporary artists start to look for passions and ideas in the material.
The material we used in Chinese ceramics and porcelain is of the same age of the Earth. Only the Chinese people have been used the fire to turn the clay into the pure, elegant yet fragile artwork. Artists devotes their all emotions and cultural cognition into the material and that's why Chinese porcelain has become the symbol of China, as well as the name of the country. Contemporary artists find that it is very hard and stressful to express a brand new artistic language with their own characteristics. Thus, my first step was to bring forward the most useful porcelain to large space sculptures. And some decorations on my artworks also originates in the nature. Like many Chinese poets, I choose to turn the natural images into the beauty of lines and planes instead of direct expression. Whenever my craftsmanship becomes more skilled and succeed in creating bigger and more brilliant porcelain, I start to question myself what exactly am I doing. I think skills are meaningless when people ask me questions about the elegance of a piece of art. So I have been trying to solve the task of making my skills useless. Therefore, I have started to create fine porcelain on one hand, and on the other hand create art crafts without any skills, showing the essential language and emotions of clay. It is because my breakthrough and development in this field that museums worldwide have discovered that there are indeed this kind of artists in China studying a traditional Chinese art. This kind of artistic form helps the west understand traditional Chinese porcelain in contemporary world.
When museums around the world invited me to run an exhibition, I always think why the western world has insert so much passion and attention on traditional porcelain. The world we live in today sees China and western world paying close attention to each other. And this is indeed the uniqueness of this era. The publishing of this book by ACC Publishing Group and The Arts Bridge is actually an answer to the meaning of exchanging and communication. In the day when electronic technology is well-developed, traditional books are still irreplaceable in communication and culture exchange. In today's era, everyone is a bridge. I hope we can go across the bridge and make the process of communication smooth.