Ah Xian: Metaphysica
Ah Xian | Metaphysica: Red Fish 2007 | Bronze, brass and oil paint | Purchased 2009 with funds from Tim Fairfax, AM, through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery © The artist
Ah Xian | Metaphysica: Immortal on deer 2007 | Bronze and brass | Gift of the artist through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2010. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery
Ah Xian is a senior Chinese-Australian artist who is best known for his contemporary use of traditional Chinese cultural motifs, techniques and materials including porcelain, bronze, jade, lacquer and cloisonné. The human body is of central importance within his work, which often combines traditional Chinese objects and iconography with contemporary realism to explore the experience of living between two cultures.
'Metaphysica' is the title of Ah Xian's series of bronze busts, made in 2007. These sculptures mark a recent development in his work. Cast from life in a lengthy process, each figure is subtly different in patina and expression. Also distinguishing them are the objects resting on top of the bust's heads, which range from Buddhist motifs and deities to animals associated with Chinese mythology. Ah Xian purchased the objects from craft markets and roadside stalls in Beijing. As he says, they are all 'auspicious symbolic objects which reflect what people believe, love, appreciate and enjoy'. Some have a Buddhist influence and some draw from historical or traditional tales, while others are from the imagination. The figures and objects reflect the variety and creativity of people's religious, political and ethical beliefs, and the desire to 'gain a definitive idea about the meaning of ourselves as beings'.
Each object holds importance for the artist. He believes the top of the head is the site where 'our wishes, imaginations, and spiritual souls linger... [The] skull is like a skylight to link our emotions and souls with the imaginative possibilities of the spirit'. Reflecting the branch of philosophy after which the series is named, these sculptures represent an exploration of the nature of existence, and imply the aspects of our being that lie beyond the physical bodies we inhabit.
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Gladstone Regional Art Gallery & Museum
13 April — 9 June 2013
Cairns Regional Gallery
28 June — 11 August 2013
Caboolture Regional Art Gallery
17 August — 5 October 2013
Stanthorpe Regional Art Gallery
31 October — 8 December 2013
14 December 2013 — 25 January 2014
Rockhampton Art Gallery
7 February — 23 March 2014
Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery
29 March — 11 May 2014
Mundubbera Regional Art Gallery
17 May — 3 July 2014
Logan Art Gallery
8 August — 13 September 2014
10 October — 23 November 2014
Gympie Regional Gallery
29 November 2014 — 1 February 2015
TYTO Regional Art Gallery, Ingham
7 February — 29 March 2015
John Mullins Memorial Art Gallery, Miles
17 April — 31 May 2015
Redland Art Gallery
5 July — 16 August 2015