LIU, Xiao Xian, 1963
Artist Biography

The way we eat, 2001
unglazed bone china
dimensions variable


The core of my creation is to engage in a comparative study of the Eastern and Western cultures. Through a segregation of the two cultures into multiple levels, I peel away the layers to reveal the similarities and differences of both sides. With my comprehension, I have made works relating to issues like religion, history, races and gender etc.

Games comprises of three sets of chess games. The initial concept was to assemble a chess set (Games Set I) with one side of Chinese chess pieces set in opposition to one side of European chess pieces. My intentions are not to be interpreted merely on the surface of cultural conflicts in the tactical play of chess, it raises the complexities of irony: whose rules to abide by on treading upon foreign grounds in this inconceivable game?

The other two chess sets were later inspired by the Centenary of Federation. The second chess set (Games Set II) looks at the native animals that roam the Aboriginal land fighting against the intrusion of the introduced animals that came with the immigrants to Australia. Working on a collaborative effort with artist Mui See Leong, who sculpted and cast the chess pieces in glass, the message behind this chosen material is to speak of the fragility and preciousness of both animal life and land in the fight for the survival of the fittest. And, above all, the invisible role of the man is trying to play God as each move is made.

In the third chess set (Games Set III) iconic figures of Australian heritage like Chesty Bond, Ned Kelly, Captain Cook and Aborigines, stand on a landscape of Australia depicted as the red centre, desert sands, lush greens and blue oceans. The reason behind the circular chessboard is to create an environment where there are no opposing sides to take, all the characters come together, idealised as a symbol of reconciliation.

Confucius once wrote: 'Eat, drink, man and woman are the main desire of human.' In The way we eat I investigate the differences of cutlery used in both East and West through my observation and research. Focusing on the Victorian era with the most flourishing style in cutlery, I attempt to compare a simple pair of Chinese chopsticks with a wide array of European flatware. Although there is a high regard for the aesthetics and craftsmanship of the Victorian cutlery with Rococo and Baroque decorations, there are many made with an excessive overlap in their functional purposes. The only value of their existence is to serve the purpose of flaunting the extravagance of the bourgeoisie. On the contrary, a pair of chopsticks can cover the multiple purposes that the pieces of Western cutlery are to perform. In turn it is also a metaphoric symbol of traditional Chinese culture and ancient philosophy that 'less is more'. In a time when the world is turning towards globalisation, there is a lot to offer and learn through the interaction of both cultures.

Liu Xiao Xian, September 2001. This statement was translated and edited by Mui See Leong.

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The way we eat, LIU, Xiao Xian, 2001
Games, LIU, Xiao Xian, 2000 - 2001
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Games, LIU, Xiao Xian, 2000 - 2001