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Dr John Yu

An interview with the acclaimed pediatrician Dr. John Yu who describes the process of having his portrait sculpture created by artist Ah Xian.

Interview wtih Dr John Yu
Video: 2 minutes

The National Portrait Gallery would like to thank Dr John Yu for his kind assistance with this project. Images courtesy of Dr George Soutter.

John Yu: When I look at the portrait, people might assume that the first thing that reminds me of my heritage is my facial appearances. But it’s not. It’s actually the children, because when you see somebody and get to know somebody really very well, you actually no longer see them as being anything other than them as a person.

A lot of Chinese sculptures have young children climbing all over the subject. I was really pleased because it related to and reflected on my life work as a paediatrician. Children give you happiness, I guess because of their honesty and their exuberance.

Ah Xian and his wife came here. He put some canvas down on the back patio. She started wrapping me in plaster of Paris, and then when he came to do the rest of my head he had to put two straws up my nostrils so I could breathe. The odd thing about that all was that I couldn’t hear, I couldn’t see, and with my head, neck and trunk fixed, I had no sense of where my body was, and that was really a funny, spooky feeling.

You know, a lot of people say, “You didn’t look very happy. Why weren’t you smiling?” and I thought, “What a stupid thing to say. If you’re covered with plaster, how can you possibly smile and have a mouth full of plaster?”

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