Ah Xian / Metaphysica: Crane on tortoise 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's 'Metaphysica' works are an ongoing series of bronze busts. Ten of these busts are featured in the '21st Century' exhibition. Each bust is slightly different in its covering and expression as they have been cast from real life.
Each bust is distinguished by the object that rests on its head. Ah Xian purchased the objects from various Beijing antique and craft markets in Beijing. The objects are a collection of deities and temples to animals and lamps. The reason the object is placed on the head is because the artist believes the head 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'.
Ah Xian’s ‘Metaphysica’ series employs the ancient craft
of bronze casting. It is a technique historically used in the manufacture of images of the Buddha and Bodhisattva, an enlightened being who is often portrayed with a mandorla of flame on the topknot. Ah Xian gives a contemporary twist to tradition by replacing the usual spiritual symbol of the flame with more everyday objects, including a fish, a rabbit, a statue of an immortal or a Buddha .
Ah Xian casts each bust in a lengthy process, using female models in China. First he creates an initial set of (negative) moulds from which a (positive) resin-fibre cast of each bust is taken. Then he polishes and refines the cast, which forms the base for the bronze version. The resin-fibre cast is covered in wax before being encased in a mould, from which the final cast is taken at a bronze factory.
Each bust is subtly different in patina and expression, and is further distinguished by the object on top of its head. Ah Xian finds the objects in markets and roadside stalls in Beijing.
Once cast, the bronze busts are sandblasted to create an even and smooth surface. To achieve the desired colour, the busts surface is heated with a gas flame blower and then a chemical spray is applied. Heat is required to gain the desired colour quickly.
A final layer of wax is applied to the bronze surface to seal and polish it before Ah Xian paints or applies any gold leaf to it.
Ah Xian uses these techniques to reanimate old traditions with his own vibrant sense of pleasure and enjoyment.
In order to understand the value of Ah Xian's works, read how the art world responded to Metaphysica in the reviews attached. Other resource materials such as brochures, reviews, interviews, videos may help when approaching the activities.
‘Metaphysica’ balances ancient techniques, cultural symbolism and portraiture in a mode of figurative art that has become his signature style. This celebrated suite of sculptures, made in 2007, represents a fascinating artistic journey, one that expresses cross-cultural possibilities in the iconography, aesthetics and production of contemporary art.
The Queensland Art Gallery holds ten busts from this series and tours to 14 regional Queensland venues.
A group of figurative sculpture works with a randomly selected object on top of each head, the part of the study of PHYLOSOPHART by Ah Xian that is concerned with trying to understand and express the nature and meaning of art and life.
Metaphysics The branch of philosophy that deals with first principles, including the sciences of being (ontology) and of the origin and structure of the universe (cosmology).
It is always intimately connected to a theory of knowledge (epistemology). (Macquarie Dictionary, revised 3rd edition)
Patina A film on the surface of bronze caused by oxidisation, formed through age or artificially through a chemical process.
Cloisonné An enamelling technique in which strips of gold, brass, silver, copper or other metals are welded to a metal backing and the resulting spaces are filled with vitreous enamel paste. The creation is then fired, ground smooth and polished.