Asian Classics Through Art

Asian Classics Through Art
Caption: [DETAIL] Japan, Battle scenes from the Tale of Heike (Heike Monogatari), early 18th century‚Ä® pair of six-panel screens, colour and gold on paper; Art Gallery of South Australia, Gift of Andrew and Hiroko Gwinnett through the Art Gallery of South Australia Foundation 2003


A series of 6 monthly lectures on Monday evening exploring art related to classic Asian epics.

Monday 2 March 2020
The Ramayana in Art: Princely Adventures and Other Stories
Dr Chaitanya Sambrani

The great Indian epic the Ramayana, thought to have been written in the early centuries BCE, follows
Rama’s adventures as he seeks to rescue his beloved wife Sita from the evil Ravana. The adventures of
Rama, Sita and Lakshmana, as they encounter human and extra-human friends and foes, has offered rich
material for artistic improvisation, spanning the spectrum of human emotion and action in the world.

Chaitanya Sambrani is an art historian and curator specialising in modern and contemporary Asian art.
Educated in Baroda and Canberra, he teaches at the Centre for Art History and Art Theory, School of Art
and Design, Australian National University.

Monday 6 April 2020
Japan’s Tale of the Heike
Russell Kelty

The Tale of the Heike (Heike Monogatari), compiled before 1330, is the original samurai epic of Japanese
literature and recounts the rise and fall of the powerful Heike clan and their destruction at the hands of the
Minamoto clan during the Genpei wars (1180-1185). The Tale marks the transition from a period
dominated by the aristocracy of Kyoto to the rise of the warrior elite. During the largely peaceful and
prosperous Edo period (1615-1868) the Tale garnered immense interest resulting in printed editions,
summaries and even commentaries, illustrated on a plethora of media such as sliding doors, handscrolls
and spectacular folding screens such as Battle scenes from the Tale of the Heike in the Art Gallery of
South Australia’s collection.

Russell Kelty, Associate Curator, Asian Art, Art Gallery of South Australia, is preparing the display
Samurai from mid-2020 to early 2021. Kelty received a BA in Art History from Colorado State
University, then spent three years living and working in Japan. He completed an MA in Art History at the
University of Adelaide and is currently a PhD candidate at Sydney University.

Monday 4 May 2020
The Shahnama (Book of Kings)
Dr Peyvand Firouzeh 

The Shahnama (Book of Kings) is an epic poem composed in Persian by the poet Firdausi in the early
11th century and ranks among the most widely copied and circulated literary works in the Persianate
world. Drawing upon several prominent medieval and early modern examples, Dr Firouzeh will discuss
the textual and visual traditions surrounding the Shahnama as a vehicle of imperial patronage and
ideology across Persian speaking societies.

Peyvand Firouzeh is Lecturer in Islamic Art at the University of Sydney. She specializes in medieval and
early modern art and architecture from the Islamic world, with research interests in sacred art and
architecture, and the mobility of artistic and intellectual networks within and beyond the Persianate world.
She served as acting curator of Eastern Islamic collections at the British Museum in 2014-2015.

Monday 1 June 2020
Panji Stories in Southeast Asia
Professor Adrian Vickers

Tales of Panji, dating from the 13th century and written by diverse authors, tell of the search by the
Javanese cultural hero, Prince Panji Inu Kertapati, for his beloved princess Candra Kirana. The earliest
Javanese texts no longer survive; early forms of the narrative are known through temple reliefs and
statues. This lecture will describe the spread of these stories from Java as far as Myanmar and Cambodia,
using illustrations from a range of artistic traditions, including the Javanese wayang beber scrolls,
Balinese classical art, Thai temple murals and Burmese illustrated manuscripts. Of particular importance
is the revival of Panji stories in recent times, the result of conjunctions between local politics and regional
heritage trends.

Adrian Vickers is Professor of Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Sydney, and a member of the
Sydney Southeast Asia Centre. His publications include the 2012 book Balinese Art: Paintings and
Drawings of Bali 1800-2010.

Monday 6 July 2020
The Tale of Genji
Jackie Menzies

The Tale of Genji (Genji Monogatari), written by Murasaki Shikibu, a lady-in-waiting at the imperial
court of Japan in the 11 th century, follows the numerous romantic liaisons of the handsome prince Genji.
The narrative captures the customs, social mores and refined aesthetics of a court of extraordinarily
complex political and personal intrigue. Its 54 chapters have been a constant source of inspiration for
artists of different schools, all seeking to convey the emotional intensity of the inter-personal relations
they describe.

Jackie Menzies is a curator, lecturer and writer. She is an Honorary Associate, Department of Asian
Studies, School of Languages and Cultures, University of Sydney and Emeritus Curator of Asian Art, Art
Gallery of New South Wales.

Monday 3 August 2020
Dr Julian Droogan,
Sacred Love: The Gitagovinda of Jayadeva

The 12th century Indian Gitagovinda (Song to God) is an extended poem celebrating the love between
Radha and Krishna. It works as an allegory for the love between the human soul and god, a description of
the Hindu path of ecstatic devotion (bakti) and has had a profound influence on the diverse arts of India,
from miniature painting through to 21st century Bollywood. 

Dr Julian Droogan has a PhD in the Study of Religions from the University of Sydney and is a Senior
Lecturer at the Department of Security Studies and Criminology, Macquarie University, where he works
on issues of culture and extremism. His academic background encompasses South Asian studies, the
anthropology of religion, and archaeology. He is a regular speaker at the Art Gallery of NSW and leads
study tours to South and Central Asia and the Middle East.

Venue: Sydney Mechanics School of Arts, 280 Pitt St, Sydney

When: See dates above. All events 6 - 8pm. Drinks and refreshments served.

Cost: Members $20; Non-members $30 for individual lectures
Special price for the whole 6 lecture series: Members $100; Non-Members $150

How to Book: Bookings and payments in advance are essential. No refunds. Book via email to Chris Manning ( or call Chris on 0412 686 025.

How to Pay
1.  By Direct Debit (“your name, CLASSICS" as reference)
BSB: 012 003     Account Number: 2185 28414
Account Name:   The Asian Arts Society of Australia

2. By credit card on this website - see booking button on top right of this page

Caption for picture above right: Scenes from a Panji tale [malat] of a legendary prince. 19th century. Ceremonial cloth made from pigments and ink on cotton; National Gallery of Australia




Monday, 2nd March, 2020 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm