"China, China", 1999
China, China: recent works in porcelain by Ah Xian was an exhibition that had 40 hand-painted porcelain body-casts. Ah Xian had travelled to Jingdezhen, China and this is where the inspiration for this exhibition originated. The artist was also influenced by his own journey - one that combined his own culture and the ideas of the Western world.
The China, China series consists of a group of vibrantly coloured porcelain busts and a few pairs of legs. It was imagined and cast by Ah Xian. The pieces were then created in kilns at Jingdezhen and hand-painted under his watch by local workers.
The exhibition also had a selection of prototype porcelain busts made from body casts that were made by the artist in a ceramic studio at the Sydney College of the Arts during 1998.
The eyes are shut and the faces are free from any form of expression. This has allowed the artist to create a haunting contrast between the traditional porcelain designs originally created for the Chinese court during the Ming (1364-1643) and Qing (1644-1911) Dynasties and the three-dimensional body casts in the China, China exhibition.
The models for the busts were men and women of Chinese and non-Chinese backgrounds. Many of these figures were the friends or family members of Ah Xian. Through traditional Chinese materials, Ah Xian found a sentimental medium to express his personal experience of his quest for a personal cultural understanding in the late 20th century.
Ah Xian stated:
“Twenty years after the Cultural Revolution and after China has opened its door to the world, we as artists with a Chinese background, should have learned and been sufficiently influenced by Western philosophy, art and culture as a whole to attain a level of confidence and capability to tell story about ourselves using our own language. I feel that we should not need to tell stories about the Chinese situation only through the foreign languages that we have just learnt.”
“Bust 15”, 1999, China, China series
Ming Kilns, Jingdezhen, Jiangxi Province, China
Sculpture; cast porcelain with hand-painted underglaze decoration
This is about a beautiful dream – a fantasy. It is about human beings, natural environments and the civilization in which one has developed. According to Ah Xian, landscape exists because we exist and that we are a reflection - a product - of our surroundings. He captures the idea that nature and humans can be in perfect synchronicity through his porcelain busts.
“Bust 28”, 1999, China, China series
Jingdzhen, Jianxi Province, China
Sculpture; porcelain body-cast with hand painted over glaze enamel in polychrome landscape design, with box
This sculptural torso is a body-cast taken from Ah Xian’s wife, Mali Hong. An extremely skilled painter of the city of Jingdezhen painted the white porcelain body. It is mainly painted with a landscape design. The base of the sculpture has the artist’s inscription.
“Bust 39”, 1999, China, China series
Sculpture; porcelain with “yingqing” (or shadowy blue) glaze
Ah Xian designed this porcelain body-cast in 1999, and was cast from a local lady whom he met in the Jiangzi province of Jingdezhen. This is a porcelain cast of a Chinese woman’s head and shoulders. It is decorated with a low-relief phoenix and peony scroll and finished with a clear blue glaze. The woman’s eyes and lips are closed and her hair is pulled back and twisted into a bun. The base is unglazed and is coloured with black paint - with the inscription “China, China - Bust 39”.
1. Watch the following YouTube video of Ah Xian's "Bust 81".
2. Take notes from the "Interview with the artist".
2. Using the "China, china" exhibition, answer the Activity Questions in the link below.