TAASA Review issues

Tea and coffee salon (Sabō) (detail), Saeki Shunkō, 1939, ink, colour, paper, lacquer, 186.0 × 180.5 cm. National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Purchased with funds donated by Alan and Mavourneen Cowen, The Myer Foundation and the NGV Supporters of Asian Art, 2015. Photo: National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
June 2020
Vol: 29 Issue: 2
Editor/s: Josefa Green
Cover Image

Tea and coffee salon (Sabō) (detail), Saeki Shunkō, 1939, ink, colour, paper, lacquer, 186.0 × 180.5 cm. National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Purchased with funds donated by Alan and Mavourneen Cowen, The Myer Foundation and the NGV Supporters of Asian Art, 2015. Photo: National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

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Editorial

TAASA’s Monday night lectures were cancelled for the time being due to COVID 19 but we were able to enjoy the first of this series on Asian classics through art, namely Chaitanya Sambrani’s lecture on The Ramayana in Art. Chaitanya’s article which opens this issue takes us through the complexities of interpreting this epic and allows us to enjoy some of the ravishing miniature paintings he used to illustrate his talk.

The theme of classics illustrated through art is continued by Russell Kelty’s article on a pair of 18th century six panel screens from the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA), which depict scenes and characters described in chapter nine of The Tale of the Heike. These screens were part of AGSA’s exhibition Samurai, sadly interrupted by the pandemic. TAASA members will be able to enjoy Russell’s talk once we resume the Monday night lecture series in early 2021. 

Visual representations of religious texts have often been used for didactic purposes, as demonstrated by Gill Green’s article on a ritual banner depicting the Vessantara Jataka, the last of the stories recounting the lives of the Buddha before his final reincarnation. In NE Thailand, these kinds of painted banners are still paraded around villages at the festival bun phra wet before being taken to the local wat, providing an important insight into village engagement with Theravada Buddhist belief. 

Tantalizingly, quite a few of this issue’s articles describe exhibitions that we are no longer able to visit due to the temporary closure of our museums and galleries. One major event that did manage to get a run before these closures is Asia TOPA, an annual celebration of the cultures of the Asia-Pacific region in Melbourne.  Knowledge in your hands, mind and eyes by Phaptawan Suwannakudt was presented by Arts Centre Melbourne as part of this festival early this year. Curator Kathleen Ashby’s article describes how this artist has drawn on the rich traditions of Thailand and her personal experiences to create her multi-sensory, experiential installation.

Japan Modernism opened at the NGV in February and can now be viewed via the NGV website. Wayne Crothers surveys the artists represented in this exhibition, a new generation of artists whose bijin-ga style of painting celebrated modernity and broke away from the orthodoxy of traditional painting in 1920s and 30s Japan. 

The 22nd Biennale of Sydney NIRIN was also forced to close its doors soon after it launched in March and can now be accessed through the Biennale’s website. Julia Booth presents one of its major installations, the Artree Nepal Artist Collective’s project Not less expensive than gold, the first time artists from Nepal have been represented in Sydney’s Biennale. In a work that surely speaks to the times, this installation combines sculpture, video, drawings, documents and herbs to expose the commercialisation and corruption of Nepal’s health system. 

A major rehang of the Asian galleries at the National Gallery of Australia was launched in November 2019, to be enjoyed again once the NGA reopens. As Carol Cains explains, this has provided an opportunity to explore the NGA’s collection through a fresh perspective, grouping historic and contemporary works together into broad themes.

The Art Gallery of NSW’s Japan Supernatural, which closed in March, featured a major work by Takashi Murakami specifically commissioned as a central piece for this exhibition. Melanie Eastburn’s contribution offers us a deeper insight into the complex influences which inspired this painting.  

Jackie Menzies reviews the catalogue of last year’s Metropolitan Museum exhibition on the Tale of Genji, while Annika Aitken presents a recent NGV publication She Persists, about women’s contribution to art and design history. Finally, both Jackie Menzies and Pratapaditya Pal acknowledge Jim Masselos’ distinguished contribution to Indian scholarship on the occasion of a two day conference recently convened at Sydney University in his honour. 

The back end of this issue would normally be filled with information about previous and future TAASA events, and exhibitions in Australia and overseas. Instead, we offer a range of information which we hope you will find useful and entertaining: a selected list of online Asian art exhibitions and lectures; notes from Publications Committee members sharing their activities in lockdown, and personal recommendations for listening or reading from Jackie Menzies and Asia Bookroom’s Sally Burdon respectively.

The TAASA Review would like to wish our members all the best in these trying times, with the hope that in Australia at least, we will be able to resume something akin to normal life soon. TAASA’s AGM was held online on 1 June (after finalisation of this issue), and the results of the elections for the TAASA Committee of Management will be reported next issue.

Table of contents

2   EDITORIAL - Josefa Green, Editor

4   THE RĀMĀYANA IN INDIAN PAINTING: PRINCELY ADVENTURES AND OTHER STORIES  - Chaitanya Sambrani

7   DREAMS AND OPTIMISM OF JAPAN’S MODERN AGE: JAPANESE MODERNISM AT THE NGV - Wayne Crothers

10  DEPICTING THE IDEAL WARRIOR IN THE TALE OF THE HEIKE: A PAIR OF SCREENS AT AGSA - Russell Kelty

12  KNOWLEDGE IN YOUR HANDS, EYES AND MIND AT ASIA TOPA, ARTS CENTRE MELBOURNE - Kathleen Ashby

14  ARTREE NEPAL ARTIST COLLECTIVE PROJECT AT NIRIN, SYDNEY’s 22nd BIENNALE - Julia Booth

16  ACCUMULATING MERIT: A RITUAL TAI BANNER DEPICTING THE VESSANTARA JATAKA - Gill Green

18  THE NATIONAL GALLERY OF AUSTRALIA’S ASIAN COLLECTION: A FRESH PERSPECTIVE - Carol Cains

21  BOOK REVIEW: SHE PERSISTS: PERSPECTIVES ON WOMEN IN ART & DESIGN - Annika Aitken

22  HONORING JIM MASSELOS - Jackie Menzies & Pratapaditya Pal

24  IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN: MURAKAMI’S JAPAN SUPERNATURAL AT THE AGNSW - Melanie Eastburn

26  BOOK REVIEW: THE TALE OF GENJI EXHIBITION AT THE MET - Jackie Menzies

27  RECENT TAASA ACTIVITIES

28  THE TAASA REVIEW PUBLICATIONS COMMITTEE: NOTES FROM HOME

30  A DIGITAL WHAT'S ON: JUNE 2020 - AUGUST 2020 - Compiled by Tina Burge

31  LISTENING IN LOCKDOWN - Jackie Menzies

31  READING IN LOCKDOWN - Sally Burdon

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