Born Quanzhou, Fujian, 1969
Wu Daxin is fascinated by ice and by the seemingly miraculous ways in which it is formed and transformed. For him, frozen water is a metaphor for life: “Ice is a unique material because it is evanescent,” he says. “In the end, it always melts and disappears.” Many of his works play on this analogy. Ashley’s Heart (2011) originated while the artist was travelling through Tibet with a group of artists and critics from China and Australia. Ashley Crawford, an Australian art writer, fell dangerously ill and was flown to hospital in Hong Kong, where Wu Daxin visited him. “He was lying in the ward with many tubes attached to his body,” the artist recalls. “The only sign that he was alive was the fact that his heart was still beating.” Crawford recovered, and Wu Daxin set about making an artwork “to record this memory that we shared”. Using copper tubing, he made a giant sculpture of the branching network of blood vessels that surround the human heart. A refrigeration compressor chills the gas-filled tubes, and moisture from the surrounding air condenses onto them and freezes. The reddish vessels gradually go white—the colour of death in China, and associated in the West with the deposits that cause heart disease. When the compressor is switched off, the ice melts away, and the cycle can start again. The appearance and vanishing of the ice is almost magical. So, for the artist, is the fact that this work now resides in Australia, Crawford’s home.