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Ah Xian

 (born 1960)
Ah Xian is active/lives in China.  Ah Xian is known for sculpture.

Ah Xian

Biography from Sotheby's Melbourne

Born in Beijing, Ah Xian first came to Australia in 1989, as visiting artist at the Tasmanian School of Art, Hobart.  Stranded by the events of Tienanmen Square, he sought asylum here, settling in Sydney with his brother and fellow artist Liu Xiao Xian.  In the alienation of exile, Ah Xian found a degree of cultural solace in historical national traditions, expanding his painting practice in the late 1990s to incorporate traditional Chinese decorative arts, often working in collaboration with artisans in his native country.

In the breakthrough China China series, naturalistic porcelain busts (life casts of family and friends) are decorated with all-over images and patterns variously drawn from brush painting, ceramics (especially blue and white wares) and textiles.  This concept creates a mismatch of form and surface that animates the faces in surprising, even surreal conjunctions: a butterfly on the eyes, for example, or a mountain on the forehead.  More broadly and more significantly, it effectively illustrates the tension between Ah Xian's motherland culture and that of his adopted home, or between the interior self and the public face.

Maintaining the metaphor but extending the material vocabulary, Ah Xian also produced works in gold lacquer and then in cloisonné enamel.  His life-size, full-figure copper and enamel sculpture Human human lotus (2001, Queensland Art Gallery) won the inaugural National Sculpture Prize at the National Gallery of Australia in 2001, bringing the artist to wide public attention in Australia, China and beyond.  He has since exhibited extensively here and overseas, his solo museum exhibitions including Ah Xian meets Jingdezhen (Museum of Frankfurt, 2002); China reconfigured: the art of Ah Xian (Asia Society, New York, 2002); Ah Xian (Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 2003); and Ah Xian: sculpture (Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, 2008).

Despite the difficulties of his personal history, the racial and national identity politics of his iconography and the occasional shadows in individual works, Ah Xian retains a gentle, optimistic perspective.  As he said in his artist's statement for the recent Contemporary Commonwealth exhibition: 'Although politics and art both play major roles in human history, politics is usually a short-lived way by which people practice their greed and lust for power (ruling other people and even the world).  However, art is ever-precious, exploring our peaceful, bright and never-ending imagination.'1

1. Ah Xian, artist's statement, in Charles Green (ed.), 2006/contemporary commonwealth/, Melbourne; National Gallery of Victoria, 2006, p. 131

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About  Ah Xian

Born:  1960 - Beijing
Known for:  sculpture