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Dazzling gem-glazed painting

FROM a distance Liu Ming-wu's artworks look like dazzling oils on canvas, but on closer inspection they are examples of ancient art of painting on ceramic, also known as gem-glazed painting.

"This art form is considered a national treasure in Taiwan and I am happy to bring them here to Shanghai," says master Liu.

An exhibition of 60 of his vivid and intricate kiln-fired ceramic paintings is underway at the Shanghai Art Museum through September 2.

"You have probably never seen such ceramic paintings before, although it is not new," says the 61-year-old artist who has developed his own art "language" after decades of experimentation.

As a child, Liu showed talent in art - he started drawing when he was three years old and made clay figurines when he was five.

He won numerous art competitions and when he was 27 years old, he took first place at the competition for Taiwan Temple Architecture. Later he became an apprentice to Lin Tien-Mu on the refining technology in Koji ceramics.

Koji ceramics was developed by Liu Gosi, a resident in Guangdong Province who went to Taiwan for pottery firing. Koji ceramics were also known as Oji ceramics during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The art gradually faded out.

In 1965, Liu started studying the art of firing Koji ceramics and revived the famous ceramics art.

He refines gem glaze with mineral formulas different from those of old Koji firing system.

"It is a new kind of ceramics involving much study and innovation," comments Li Xiangyang, president of Fudan University's Institute of Visual Arts. "I first saw Liu's works in 2007 at big exhibitions in Beijing and Shanghai and was so amazed to find these glittering and brilliant ceramic paintings.

"If ceramic art is regarded as the gem among Chinese cultural treasures, then Liu's work is the treasure among the treasures," Li says.

In the 1970s authorities would not permit Liu's ceramics to be taken out of Taiwan as they were considered valuable antiques.

"But after I explained my technique and showed samples to customs officials, they finally let me take my ceramics," he recalls.

In addition to developing unique techniques, Liu has integrated aspects of oil painting in his works.

Subjects cover a wide range - some specific, some abstract; they include Buddhas, landscapes, views of the cosmos and portraits.

"As the World Expo now underway in Shanghai, I feel especially honored to bring my works here," he says. "I hope more visitors will experience the joy and beauty of these works."

Date: through September 2, 9am-5pm

Address: 325 Nanjing Rd W.

Tel: 6327-2829


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