What strikes me most about Au Xian’s work is the quietude. Much of the appeal lies in its mystery. One wonders what the models thought about while they were being cast. We have no clues: mute busts, figures with closed eyes hold their secrets. It is tempting to think the dreamscapes that play over limb and lip are the imaginings of the one cast. “Ah Xian is a Chinese artist who journeyed to the historical center of porcelain production at Jing De Zhen after living in Australia for more than a decade,” writes Van Horgen. “His China, China collection combines the Western portrait bust with traditional Chinese porcelain techniques and symbolic motifs of the Ming and Qing dynasties.” With further reference to this book, Horgen states, “Featuring body-casts of his friends and family, the 40 busts were hand-painted by local artisans under his direction.” Well, yesterday, I was talking with my friend Jennifer over coffee. She was telling me about ancient Asian lamps and the delicacy of baked duck in clay. Recently, I also wrote a short post about plaster casting, so I guess these elements led to thoughts of Ah Xian. The logistics of large-scale sculpture intrigues me, as I have only done smaller pieces. Beyond the technical aspects, though, I am interested in the way Ah Xian achieves effects by yoking together artistic traditions in startling ways. Classical Asian motifs play over Western-style busts like slides projected onto a screen. I particularly liked what he had to say about bronze sculptures he’d made, as reported by The Australian. “Metaphysica comprises a colony of busts with bizarre objects on their heads: a bright red fish, a teapot, a pagoda. Ah Xian picked up these ornaments, believed to betoken good luck or health, at markets in China. ‘My idea is that people will believe in anything and when you put them all together, it seems senseless or meaningless,’ he explains.” What a puckish sense of humor! Contrast this with the critical art world’s over-interpretation of this shy, middle-aged artist’s work. Ho-hum… I really don’t want to know much about Au Xian’s intentions. I just want to appreciate his work and the projects he orchestrates, to allow my brain to perceive, consider, and to be silent.
Images licensed through Creative Commons.