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Ai Xuan
Ai Xuan  (1947 —         )

Ai Xuan was born in 1947 in Hebei province and credits his father, Ai Qing, one of China's most famous poets, for his early interest in art. Ai Xuan graduated from the Central Academy of Fine Arts Preparatory School in 1967. His further education Hebei Provincewas interrupted by the Cultural Revolution, and between 1969 and 1973, he was sent to hard labor on a military farm in Tibet. He has, however, stated that this experience provided him with subject matter for most of his best paintings. He won the Silver medal at the Second National Exhibition of Young Artists in China in 1981 and since then has gone on to become one of the most recognized painters of the post-Cultural Revolution period. His work regularly sets record prices at auctions in Beijing and Hong Kong. A member of the Chinese Artists' Association, he is also a full professor at the Beijing Painting Institute, and co-founder of the China Realists group, Beijing.




 

  • A Girl, 1975
    Oil on Paper
    23" x 16" (58.4cm x 40.6cm)

    About this work

    Ai Xuan painted this portrait of a girl from the Qiang minority in Wen Chuan, a city in Sichuan province. The artist was in the PLA army in 1975 and stopped over in Wen Chuan while on his way to Tibet with fellow painter He Kongde (see "Coming Out To Attack" and "Still Life" by He Kongde in The Hefner Collection). Ai Xuan was attracted to the subject because of the way she was dressed, representative of the Qiang minority. The painting is a simple profile study, but is made extraordinary by the subtle contrasting of colors and the gentle lighting of the subject. It is a beautiful example of Ai Xuan's early field work.    

  • Dusk, 1988
    Oil on Canvas
    26" x 20" (66cm x 50.8cm)

    About this work

    "Dusk" shows one of Ai Xuan's typical subjects, a young Tibetan girl in a lonely landscape. Monochromatic shades of blue greys and browns reflect her colorless surroundings. The artist has said that for him, life in Tibet was sometimes overwhelming in its silence and isolation and that it was easy to get lost in it, but that he never felt happier than when he was there.       

  • Winter Afternoon, 1988
    Oil on Canvas
    32" x 24" (81.3cm x 60.9cm)

    About this work

    Children are often the subjects of Ai Xuan's works and all of his subjects are from Tibet, a place the artist knows intimately having been sent there for 're-education' during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). There is always contrast in Ai Xuan's paintings that creates a sense of mystery; the young girl in "Winter Afternoon" is rendered in shades of brown, emphasizing the plainness of her life, yet she stands in a bright shaft of light, cutting through the dark shadows of a barn. Is she thinking of her lonely existence, or is she simply taking advantage of the tranquility of it? We cannot know for sure, but the artist has said that for him, life in Tibet was sometimes overwhelming in its silence and isolation and that it was easy to get lost in it.   

  • February in An-Qu Village, 1988
    Oil on Canvas
    31" x 39" (78.7cm x 99.1cm)

    About this work

    In most of Ai Xuan's paintings, he focuses on a single figure, alone in the landscape and frozen in a moment of reflection or contemplation. The challenging environment of Tibet provides the typical setting for this artist's works. Here we see a figure standing before a holy shrine and we’re reminded that regardless of the weather, the act of worshipping takes place on a daily basis in Tibet. A focal element in this painting contrasts the white colored crescent and circular shapes at the top of the shrine, with the black inverted counter-shape of the figure's head. Obviously deliberate, it adds interest to the composition.    

  • Stranger, 2006
    Oil on Canvas
    51" x 39" (129.5cm x 99.1cm)

    About this work

    "Stranger" is one of Ai Xuan's most enigmatic portraits and might well be considered his "Mona Lisa". The subject is a melancholy young girl the artist came across while living in Tibet during the Cultural Revolution. She is identifiable as Tibetan by her beaded necklace and red sash. Her dust-caked hair, weathered face, and ragged sheepskin jacket are meticulously depicted. The artist says he ran into the subject on a road surprising her, and the expression on the girl's face made a lasting impression on him. He believes he was a stranger to the girl as well as a stranger in Tibet, so this became the title for the portrait.   

  • Stranger, 1983
    Oil on Canvas
    30 3/8" x 21 1/8" (77cm x 53.5cm)

    About this work

    "Stranger" is one of Ai Xuan's most enigmatic portraits and might well be considered his "Mona Lisa". The subject is a melancholy young girl the artist came across while living in Tibet during the Cultural Revolution. She is identifiable as Tibetan by her beaded necklace and red sash. Her dust-caked hair, weathered face, and ragged sheepskin jacket are meticulously depicted. The artist says he ran into the subject on a road surprising her, and the expression on the girl's face made a lasting impression on him. He believes he was a stranger to the girl as well as a stranger in Tibet, so this became the title for the portrait.   

  • Seasonal Wind at Nuo Erga, Tibet, 1982
    Oil on Canvas
    19" x 25" (48cm x 63cm)

    About this work

    In most of Ai Xuan's paintings, he focuses on a single figure, alone in the landscape and frozen in a moment of reflection or contemplation. The challenging environment of Tibet provides the typical setting for this artist's works. Here we see a figure in the elements of the environment and we’re reminded that regardless of the weather, daily living for survival in Tibet, continues.

     
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