Days and nights of muscle-aching toil are a distant memory when ceramic artist Chiu So-lan looks at her signature piece, The Learned Parade, now on display at City University. She used a tonne of clay to create her work, consisting of 166 human-like figures in different postures. It is part of a collection on show in the open-air university circle, a prime location seldom used for exhibiting art. Chiu says The Learned Parade was inspired by the July 1 protest last year. One aspect that quickly catches the viewer's eye is that the figures all have holes through their heads. 'After the series of events last July, I was spurred into browsing through different philosophical works of ancient Greek, Chinese and the west in the hope of finding what an ideal nation should be,' Chiu explains. 'However, I could not find a definitive answer and began to think democracy is only a comparative term. 'While we complain about the lack of democracy, we may be enjoying more freedom than many other people. We should be open-minded in defining our answers. That's why the heads of the figures all have holes.' A Hong Kong native who lived in New Zealand for several years, Chiu says events in her home city are still her greatest source of inspiration, even though she feels the government does not give enough support to artists. 'If City University had not offered me such a venue, I would not have been able to create such an installation,' she says. Brought up in an artistic family, Chiu gained exposure to Chinese ink painting, seal-carving and calligraphy. She started to experiment with ceramics when she gave up her social service job to emigrate to New Zealand. 'Ceramics, to me, can be much more expressive than just painting because it's three-dimensional. I can also use the ceramic as a medium for painting.' Another of her pieces, Rests, comprises 15 'teapots' shaped in the form of a flying bird. Each employs a different material and is painted a different colour. She says this 'flying bird' structure is symbolic of her migration to a foreign country. Chiu has now created more than 50 works. 'I just hope that, one day, ceramics will no longer be considered just craftsmanship. It's not just about making containers. It can be an art form on par with painting,' she says. Kevin Sinclair is ill.