Contemporary Chinese craft and art showcased at Collect 2019, Saatchi Gallery
Exhibition / 12 Mar 2019 / Irene Wang, Shirley Chen

Collect 2019, presented by the Crafts Council, returned to London’s Saatchi Gallery for its 15th edition. The only gallery-presented art fair dedicated to modern craft and design, Collect provides an opportunity to discover and invest in exceptional work produced in the last five years by living artists. For the first time at Collect, China Design Centre presented an exquisite collection of Chinese contemporary art in ceramics, metal and wood.

From 28 February to 3 March 2019 Collect occupied the whole of the Saatchi Gallery for four days with 40 galleries, selected by an independent panel of experts, selling the work of over 400 artists.

The recent years see many emerging contemporary craft artists in China, actively pushing the boundaries of innovation of traditional craft while continuing the heritage. Still, in the West, the majority of audience only recognise Chinese arts and crafts as the historical pieces in the museum. Hence, China Design Centre aims to challenge the stereotypical view, believing in the concept of ‘combining the traditional craft with modern language’, as the natural advantage of Chinese craft is rooted in the rich history, excellent techniques and distinctive aesthetics.

With the showcase at Collect 2019, the goal was achieved as thousands of viewers mesmerised by the exquisite and truly unique collection from China Design Centre. The featured artists include Wan Liya, Bian Xiaodong, Ding Hao, Fang Zhenpeng, Jin Zhenhua, Hu Chenchen, Zheng Zhilong, Wu Haoyu and Sun Jialing. The works are quite different from each other yet presented a similar theme: the balance between traditional culture and modern life.

Ding Hao, Moon Palace

The work Moon Palace by DING Hao takes reference from the moon gate in classic Chinese gardens while stands out as a modern, futuristic metal sculpture. Ding is a sculpture artist based in Beijing. His works are inspired by traditional Chinese architecture, landscape paintings and modern society. With the essence of the elegance and craftsmanship of Chinese gardens, Moon Palace tells a garden story of its own, right in the front of the viewers at this very present time. Moreover, it invites the viewers to interact in its story; therefore, a dialogue is bridged between the viewers and the artist.

Wan Liya, Thousand Kilometres Landscape

WAN Liya’s work creatively combines Chinese tradition with modern society – disposable containers we use in daily life. The idea of the installation Thousand Kilometres Landscape is based on the painting of the same name by Wang Ximeng, one of the most classic Chinese paintings in Chinese art history stored at the Palace Museum. Wan is also one of the pioneers dedicated to contemporary ceramics in China, and he played a crucial role in the modernisation of Chinese ceramic art.

Bian Xiaodong, Raindrops 6.0

BIAN Xiaodong discovered new possibilities of traditional ceramic techniques and has been experimenting with fine porcelain for years, resulting in a series of work based on porcelain body as thin as eggshell. He mastered a unique way to morph the shape consciously in a high-temperature kiln. The latest series ‘Raindrops 8.0’ further explores the possibility of the deformation of porcelain, attempting to resemble forms of water in nature.

Zheng Zhilong, Tree Chair

Tree Chair by ZHENG Zhilong skillfully combines walnut, burr birch and maple, and was selected as one of the finalists for Loewe Craft Prize in 2017. Zheng started to collect old wood from demolished houses in 2005 when the rapid urbanisation process in China happened, which inspired him to become a furniture designer. In 2013, Zheng established his studio ‘Shimuji’, which means 'pick up the wood', aiming to call back the soul of the wood. If the wood has a soul, Zheng hopes to help it find itself and return to life in the form of furniture with added practicality in a most natural state.

Jin Zhenhua, Growing

JIN Zhenhua is another artist that loves nature and draws inspiration from it. She has always been focusing on the theme of ‘life’ through the language of porcelain. Life is fleeting, and she wanted to express its connotation with artistic forms as metaphors. In Growing series, she gave static plants new life by turning them into art. In her work Orientation, the artist hand-sculpted the clay into bending pieces to indicate the sense of disorientation and uncertainty.

Wu Haoyu, New Stoneware

The series New Stoneware by WU Haoyu is the materialisation of Wu’s inner world, where the traditional and the modern tangled, conflicted and merged. The work is pure white while keeping the rough texture of the original stone. A sleek and smooth vase seems to be growing from the inside, which highly contrasts with the sharp stone yet integrates with it.

Fang Zhenpeng, Vessels & Vases with Light

FANG Zhenpeng is deeply influenced by Chinese philosophy, especially the Tao Te Ching. His work Vessels abandons the traditional pursuit of porcelain: the exquisite glazing, painting, carving; instead, he embraced the 'accidents' and let the material speaks for itself. The smoked effect is mostly uncontrollable; hence every piece is unique.

Hu Chenchen, Half & Half

Sun Jialing, Skeleton Change

HU Chenchen and SUN Jialing both are young artists graduated from the best art institutions and create work with their unique language. Hu obtained her Master’s degree in Ceramic and Glass from the Royal College of Art. She explores the relationship between ceramic sculptures and functional objects, creating work that can provide a chance for people to shift the role between viewer and user. Sun finished her postgraduate degree at Tsinghua University. Her Skeletal Change series explores the transmutation of the skeleton between life and death, existence and disappearance. The similarity in the quality of ceramic and bone helps to convey the subtle yet magnificent transformation.

From all the work, which one do you like the most? Please leave us an email at We would like to hear your feedback on our first-ever showcase at Collect!

Photography by Phoebe Guo

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