Profound in Translation
Xu Xiao Yong teaches Sam Yen about the importance of intention in design.
An intention to design becomes the basis of sculptor and artist Xu Xiao Yong’s interpretation of deities in Royal Selangor’s Celestial Blessing collection.
Speaking with the consummate artist and sculptor Xu Xiao Yong is a disarming experience. Within seconds, the interview turns into a lesson, with the student eliciting pearls of wisdom from a sage.
“In Buddhism, there is the concept of kong – emptiness,” Xu muses. “This is a void that exists before any creation. So when I design, I am filling this new space with my sensibility, which is influenced by my memories, my history and my heart. I start with intention and just let it happen.”
To give an example, Xu cites the Buddha. In India, he looks Indian. In China, he looks Chinese, but even then, depictions of Buddha in China differ across history. “To make a design relevant for today, we have to understand contemporary needs. We can admire a statue from the Tang Dynasty, but we can never truly understand it because we don’t live in the Tang Dynasty.” So even if Xu’s recent Celestial Blessing collection for Royal Selangor is rooted in Taoist mythology, it is decidedly modern in depiction – Guan Yin is serene and almost sensual, while Guan Gong is arrestingly formidable. It was the first time Xu worked with pewter, and the grey of the metal gave him a sense of peace. “Pewter is very Zen to me. It starts as a flamboyant metal then slowly stabilises and matures, gaining serenity with age.” Xu asks three questions when designing: Is this meaningful? Is this right? Is this fun? The answer has to be yes to all three because motive shapes all designs. “What unites the design of a century ago and today is the human element. If I enjoy making something, then everyone else will feel it too.” www. royalselangor.com ≠
“What unites the design of a century ago and today is the human element.”