Southern Buoy Studio Portrait Prize l Southern Buoy Studios, Mornington, Victoria, Australia
17th April to 5th June 2021
Southern Buoy Studios Portrait Prize 2021 Winner
An Unravelling of Ah Xian (2020), oil, synthetic polymer, incense, Oolong, eucalyptus extract on board, (H) 120cm x (W) 90cm x (D) 3.5cm.
Ah Xian (阿先), a leading Australian contemporary artist, creates the human form with clay, drawing on his experiences as a migrant. Specifically, a migrant between the Chinese and Western worlds, bearing the burden of cultural stereotypes; my practice shares a nexus with his.
The flesh of Ah’s busts takes form through the action of moulding with clay. In Chinese mythology, the goddess Nüwa (女媧) made humanity out of mud, while the Holy Bible states that ‘God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life’ (Genesis 2:7). All these illustrate an intimate bond between makers and their materials.
Traditionally, portrait paintings present people of influence, static faces void of intimacy. Where I have introduced intimacy within this portrait, building a sense of proximity and connection with the audience. My paints fuse with incense, Oolong and eucalyptus leaves, and other biological, cultural, and environmental materials connected with Ah’s life. These fusions form his flesh in this painting and emit smells. The Oolong tea as an intercultural example; when one consumes it, samples an aspect of Chinese culture, unveils a shared connection between Ah Xian and the audience.