The Three Realms of Ah Xian: Review by Luise Guest

Luise Guest: “The term “fledging” refers to the point at which young birds have grown the adult feathers that will allow them to fly… His work is “taking flight” in a new direction.”

Ah Xian’s solo show at Vermilion Art is reviewed as a blogpost by Luise Guest, a guest speaker of the ‘Evening with Ah Xian & Luise Guest’ event held on March 23.

​Here are some quotes by Luise Guest:

Prevented by Australia’s closed borders from returning to his sculpture studio in Beijing, or to the porcelain city of Jingdezhen where he has found much inspiration in the past, he wondered what he could do. The result of his period of contemplation is revealed in this exhibition, and it represents a distinct change in his practice, perhaps best expressed in the poem he wrote for this beautiful, ambiguously gendered,  viridian green figure with a bird perched upon its head:

Freely thinking soars up high
Peace can perch and also fly
Where there’s truth and righteous men
There I make their hometown mine
(translation of poem handwritten by Ah Xian on Fledging No.9)

The term “fledging” refers to the point at which young birds have grown the adult feathers that will allow them to fly. Ah Xian says that his sculptures are heavy, solid, singular, three dimensional forms – earthbound if you like – whereas these two dimensional works on xuan paper are light, airy and editioned as multiples (although the calligraphy on each piece is unique, the work of the artist’s hand). His work is “taking flight” in a new direction. 

Above all, Ah Xian wanted these works to be beautiful – a solace, he says, for difficult times – and they absolutely are. But there is darkness here, as well as a Buddhist-influenced sense of acceptance.


Luise Guest is an independent art writer, lecturer and researcher with a focus on contemporary Chinese art. Her writing has appeared in numerous print and online journals including the Journal of Contemporary Chinese Art, the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art, Australasian Art Monthly, Artist Profile, and Yishu Journal. Her book about women artists in China, ‘Half the Sky‘, was published by Piper Press in 2016. She wrote the text for ‘99 Contemporary Chinese Artists‘ published by the White Rabbit Collection in Sydney in 2019. Luise has recently submitted a PhD thesis examining the work of four contemporary Chinese artists working with ink, examined through lenses of gender and Chineseness. Currently she teaches at UNSW Art & Design in the Masters of Curating and Cultural Leadership, and continues writing and lecturing about contemporary art in the People’s Republic of China.

To read the full blogpost click here.

View Artist Page >


Vermilion Art

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.