Prof. Zheng Ning who has greatly contributed to today's ceramics art and education, takes studying the traditional craft culture as basis while creating his works. And his ceramics are characterized as plain, natural and functional which makes them easily form interaction with people.
Prof. ZEHRA COBANLI
With a ceramics and porcelain tradition of thousands of years, China is still one of the most important ceramic and porcelain production centers of the world today. It's true to say that many commonly used production, ornament and firing methods have spread over the world from these lands. During my first trip to China in 1998, what I watched has impressed and surprised me so much. It was a great feeling to watch the things I know, heard and learned in museums, palaces, art galleries, ceramic factories and ceramic centers. My admiration to Chinese porcelains has yet got bigger. In these cultural and technical tours, our guide was the Tshinghua University Art and Design Academy Ceramics Department academic member, Prof. Zheng Ning. He organized this international Ceramics Symposium together with the International Society for Ceramic Art Education and Exchange (ISCAEE) in 1998 in Beijing in Ceramics Department where he served and that was the reason of my trip to China which was a long-running event with its' conferences, workshops, exhibitions and tours. Along with the universities in China, the universities from Japan, USA and Anadolu University Fine Arts Faculty Ceramics Department students and lecturers have also participated the event. Thanks to the technical and cultural tour all the way to Jingdezhen known as the "Mecca of Porcelain" and Xian with the terracotta soldiers, I had the opportunity to learn about the Chinese culture and ceramic in detail. My following visits to many other ceramic and art centers, museums, artist workshops, kilns and ceramic education institutions, have taken place between 1998-2019 where I was invited to guest lecturer and guest artist programs.
I first met Prof. Zheng Ning in 1992 in Tokio University of Fine Arts and Music where I went by earning the Monbusho research scholarship. He had earned the Monbusho scholarship the term before me and been accepted to the Faculty to conduct research. His studies and researches on Japanese ceramics continued for two years. He collected the Japanese ceramics that he examined and researched into a book in 2001. He and Prof. Fumio Shimada, a lecturer in the same university have started a student exchange program between this university and his institute. Prof. Zheng Ning, Prof. Fumio Shimada, Prof. Richard Mahaffey and I was the founders of ISCAEE in 1998.
Born in 1958 in Yinchuan China, the artist graduated from the Ceramic Department of Beijing Central Academy of Arts Design in 1981. He began serving in this institution at the year of his graduation. Passing years have consolidated the successes of Prof. Zheng Ning who looks calm, determined and hardworking. He continued his duty of Head of Department in the Academy for many years. Today, he's a member of the International Academy of Ceramics (IAC), Vice President of the International Society for Ceramic Art Education and Exchange and a member of the China Artists Union. Apart from his institution he's also making great contributions to his countries studies in scientific and artistic fields. He's an assessment member of Post-Doctoral Science Association of China. He has also been as a jury member in important National Art Exhibitions of China's art life. He's an important name and a sophisticated artist representing his country in the field of ceramic art.
The artist has made studies and researches on many topics in ceramics such as historical and technical and conveys these researches and studies to young generations with many important books he wrote. For many years, he has studied on ceramic glazes for porcelain and stoneware structures and made thousands of structure and glaze experiments. His researches on glazes and the results have been published in a book in 2005 with the name Glazes for Potter.
I already mentioned that Prof. Zheng Ning is a good researcher. His technical, aesthetical and historical knowledge on his own ceramic culture truly cannot be denied. It's possible to see his fund of knowledge in the works that he shaped sometimes on potter's lathe and sometimes with different methods and in the paintings that he made on ceramic surfaces with an excellent skill.
The perfect look of the structure and glaze he uses is no coincidence but the reflection of his technical and aesthetical knowledge and skill in that field. With his excellent works he earned the Danfeng Chaoyang Award in 2014.
Prof. Zheng Ning has a determined and decided personality. We can feel these traces on his works. It's possible to witness his creativity on the teapots he designed for green tea offering, a bare necessity of tea and tea culture which has an important place in Chinese culture. When porcelain teapots met the spiritual pleasure of green tea, it's worth to be watched and used. In conjunction with this, I'd also like to point out that he also serves as the President of the Tea Ceremony Art Institute of Tsinghua University Art and Design Academy.
The artist has also works on industrial ceramics field and many young ceramicists can make benefit, learn from and consolidate their knowledge in his design workshop located in Beijing. apart from splendid teapots he designed, he also designs in many different subjects. As well as the style designs to porcelain and ceramic factories producing in areas like tableware and wall ceramics in China, he also designs ornaments for surfaces. With this substantial aspect of his, he has been awarded the Excellency Award in the 9th National Fine Arts Exhibition in 1999 with his tableware work.
Being a nature lover, the nature imagery made by Prof. Zheng Ning on his porcelain works with brush and brush strokes there were first trees, lonely human portraits at far hills, fishes and surface portrayals made with free strokes. Today, there are mountains, range of mountains and pictorial imagery made again with free strokes. The harmony between the brush stokes that he masters and uses skillfully and the cobalt blue he uses on porcelain structure, is the result of an excellent craftsmanship. His forms of ceramic are perfect in aesthetics. He has a poetic language. He got me feeling the tree benches dancing in the wind…
Prof. Zheng Ning is progressing on a successful line both as an artist and as an academician as his book named The Artistic Spirit of the Song Porcelains is published in 2010. Been studying the Longquan kilns and celadon porcelains fired in these kilns until 2015, Zheng has written his studies and observations in 2015 in his book named Porcelain Making Technologies in Longquan Kiln Celadons. Along with these academic studies, he also has contributed on many important studies as an editor. The students he educated in recent past in many ceramic departments newly opened in various provinces of China, are serving their duties successfully.
It's no surprise for me that, in 2019 in his new workshop he founded in Jingdezhen, I come across his excellent works referencing the blue-white tradition of the region known for thousands of years with an important place in world ceramics and carrying this tradition to the future. The harmony of form, color, glaze and ornament in his craftsmanship period works, were splendid. His narrow-mouthed vases were looking dynamic, graceful and strong. It was impossible to be struck by the synergy of blue and white in his pictorial works on table like wide surfaces. Same dynamic characteristics were also present in the wall ceramics he made for wide spaces.
The artist makes no concessions to sharing, teaching and friendship and I'd like to emphasize his hospitality and sensibility he shows his guests in the ceramic conferences and symposiums he organized.
Having significant studies both as an academician and as an artist and with works taking place in important museums and special collections, Prof. Zheng Ning has an important place in today's Chinese Ceramic Art history. I'd like to notify that we are fortunate for his contributions to me and many of my colleagues and students and for knowing him. He has visited our country at different times for his interest on traditional Turkish ceramics and culture.
Prof. Zheng Ning is one of the important figures of our field with his important contributions to today's ceramic art and education and with his academicianship.