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Ah Xian


Ah Xian | China/Australia b.1960 | Human human - lotus, cloisonné figure 1 2000-01 Hand-beaten copper, finely enamelled in the cloisonné technique | 158 x 55.5 x 32cm | Purchased 2002. The Queensland Government's Queensland Gallery of Modern Art Acquisitions Fund | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

b.1960 China/Australia
Lives and works in Australia

Ah Xian began casting porcelain in the early 1990s at Sydney College of the Arts. In 1996, he returned to China and travelled to Jingdezhen — famous for its kilns which, for centuries, produced fine porcelain objects and vessels for the Chinese imperial courts — to learn traditional techniques. An Australia Council grant allowed him to visit Jingdezhen again in 1998, where he worked for nine months with master potters and learnt the process of making porcelain busts, including moulding them from life and decorating, glazing and firing them. Ah Xian's subsequent move to working in cloisonné, lacquer and jade allowed him to further explore and reinterpret longstanding Chinese artistic traditions.

In Human human – lotus, cloisonné figure 1 2000–01, Ah Xian uses the lotus flower as a decorative motif. In China, the lotus is associated with Chinese Buddhism and Taoism. It represents purity, spiritual awakening and is associated with aspects of the divine within humanity. This sculpture personifies the finer aspects of human nature and the artist has stated that his engagement with traditional craft is intended partly as a means of retrieving aspects of aesthetic pleasure.

Ah Xian's 'Metaphysica' works are an ongoing series of bronze busts that have been cast from life, ten of which feature in the '21st Century' exhibition. Each bust is subtly different in patina and expression, and distinguished by the objects that rest on the busts’ heads. Ranging from deities and temples to animals and lamps, Ah Xian purchased these objects from antique and craft markets in Beijing and from roadside stalls. That they are placed on the head is important to the artist, as he believes that this is the site where 'our wishes, imaginations, and spiritual souls linger around . . . The skull is like a skylight to link our emotions and souls with the imaginative possibilities of the spirit'.

Exhibitions (solo): 'Ah Xian: Skulpturen', Herbert-Gerisch Stiftung, Neumünster, 2008; 'Ah Xian', Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2003; 'China Reconfigured: The Art of Ah Xian', Asia Society and Museum, New York City, USA, 2002. Exhibitions (group): 'The China Project', Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2009; 'Cross Currents: Focus on Contemporary Australian Art', Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, 2007; 'Die obere Hälfte: Die Büste von Rodin bis Funakoshi', Kunsthalle, Emden, Germany, 2005.