While Chinese artist/rocker/political activist Ai Weiwei is more famous in the West, his older brother Ai Xuan is also a highly accomplished artist domestically, the Wall Street Journal reports.
In stark contrast to his brothers’ often controversial and conceptual art, Ai Xuan, 65 is a “very traditional, academic” realist painter. His work is highly sought-after in China and regularly fetches 4 million yuan amongst China’s wealthy. In 2011, a collector paid 28 million yuan for one of his oil-on-canvas pieces, one among the most anybody’s ever paid for a work by a living artist in China.
He is renowned for his representations of Tibetan nomads, a minority he became familiar with after being sent to the countryside as a member of the People’s Liberation Army during the cultural revolution. However, his output is limited due to the length of time it takes to paint the meticulous pieces. He told the Art Media Agency, “The process of completing a work to perfection takes a long time; sometimes it takes me a year to finish one painting.” Thus, only two exhibitions of his work have ever been held.
In order to produce these, he adheres to a strict daily routine:
He starts his day at 6 a.m., exercising religiously before going on to paint in one of two studios. In the morning, when natural light is best, he focuses on oil painting in one space, shifting to ink at the second studio in the afternoon. He sticks to a diet of peasant food and goes to sleep by 9 p.m., he said.
Ai Weiwei and Ai Xuan share the same father, poet Ai Qing. However, they have not been in contact since 1996, when their father was dying.
“We are very different, have had different paths and don’t have much in common,” the older artist said of his relationship with his younger brother.
Despite their estrangement, it is clear that artistic genes run strong in the Ai family – we are going to keep an eye out for Ai Xuan’s only child, a daughter that has recently started high school in the United States.
By Maea Lenei Buhre.