Throughout April 1989, large numbers of students gathered in Tian'anmen Square, in front of the Forbidden Palace in the centre of Beijing in China. They were demonstrating against political corruption and economic instability. As the crowds continued to grow, so did the displeasure of the government of the People's Republic of China. By the beginning of June, armed soldiers were sent in to suppress the protest. This they did, violently, leaving between 400 and 7000 people dead (because of the lack of freedom of the press in China at the time figures are very unreliable).
Ah Xian (pronounced `ar see-arn') had friends who were jailed because of their involvement in the protests. The following year he sought political asylum in Australia. He has lived in Sydney since then, working in both Australia and China. His work can be seen as an attempt to reconcile his past and present lives; it is a visual bridge between the east (his homeland of China) and the west (Australia, where he lives). His sculptures present a contrast between the three-dimensional busts that belong to the western portrait tradition and the two-dimensional surface which is painted with traditional, symbolic and decorative Chinese patterns.
In 1997, in his backyard studio, Ah Xian began to make porcelain busts on plaster casts he made over the figures of friends and family. He then glazed these busts with traditional hand-painted Chinese designs. Since 1999 he has collaborated with Chinese artisans in Jingdezhen (the historical centre of China's fine porcelain production), who paint the traditional designs that he selects after research in pattern books. He used their expertise to decorate the three-dimensional works of the human figure in his series called China China.
Ah Xian China China Bust 1999
The eyes of Ah Xian's figures are always closed. The faces are still and silent and wear no expression. In many ways figures such as Dr John Yu AC (right) remind us of...