Narrative and performance help maintain and convey a society’s history and culture as the National Gallery of Victoria’s new exhibition Gods Heroes and Clowns: Performance and Narrative in South and Southeast Asian Art demonstrates so successfully. The exhibition has prompted us to take up the theme for this issue of the TAASA Review, though we have broadened the geographical range to other parts of Asia.
Narrative in art has different forms in different media - in painting, performance, sculpture and film. In painting, there are many ways of conveying a narrative: a common form in western art is the single scene which epitomises a whole story - an approach also evident in Asian temple carving. In Asian art, we often find an expanded method of continuous narration that is conveyed in either a linear manner, such as a frieze, or through narrative networks which have little regard for temporal progression. Readers will recognize the last approach in Dao Midgley’s account of a Lao temple mural, where current events are juxtaposed with the historical.
Carol Cains shows us in her article that performance and narration are integral to the religious practice of Buddhism and Hinduism just as they are in folk art. All are part of ongoing traditions that have life and vitality. A similar point underlies Tuy Daniel and Martin Polkinghorne’s account of the Vessantara Jataka, the story of the penultimate life of the Buddha, and of changes in the way the story has been illustrated in Cambodia over time, beginning with Angkorian depictions from the 11th century and ending with Svay Sareth’s contemporary version. Similarly Melanie Eastburn directs us to the NGA’s exhibition on the great epic, the Ramayana, where what she describes as ‘the enduring narrative’ is illustrated in 101 miniature paintings drawn from different schools of painting in India.
Adrian Vickers’ article on I Gusti Nyoman Lempad expands our knowledge of this formidable Balinese artist and follows on from Siobhan Campbell’s book review, Lempad of Bali, in our March issue. Vickers reveals a network of narratives that allow insights into the complex world of Balinese stories and their major themes - gender, the attaining of wisdom and power, and the moving between the world of the senses and the world beyond.
Tony Twigg, a practising Sydney artist, shares his experiences witnessing the procession of a Christian icon through the streets of Manila, when the devout gather in their millions to view the Black Nazarene. He considers this annual performance in the light of the Philippine history of colonisation, as well as providing interesting links with the Australian artist, Ian Fairweather.
The NGV has a beautiful 19th century Japanese scroll painting of the Parinirvana of the Buddha, another long surviving narrative, which is discussed by curator, Wayne Crothers. The scroll is currently on view at the NGV. Canberra resident Dao Midgley gives us a unique insight into the patron’s role in commissioning the decoration of a recently constructed Buddhist temple in her home village near the ancient Lao capital of Luang Prabang.
Adrienne McKibbins reminds us of the role of performers in influencing narrative story lines in her contribution on Hindi cinema. She focuses on three Indian superstars, the way in which their private lives and film personas interact - and how in turn this affects the kinds of films produced and their audiences.
Sophie McIntyre, the curator of an upcoming exhibition Ink Remix, examines the innovative reactions of contemporary Chinese artists to the long narrative of Chinese ink painting. This travelling exhibition will initially be on view at the Canberra Museum and Gallery (CMAG) in July. Min-Jung Kim describes a ‘playful’ exhibition on the art of Japanese folding at the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in Sydney, showing contemporary fashion items and decorative arts and the way they relate to folding traditions.
In our regular In the Public Domain feature, Jackie Menzies discusses a large Rajasthani scroll about the life of the hero-god Pabuji, used by traditional story tellers. She notes that the story line is not depicted through a series of events as they happen over time, instead episodes are grouped together according to the places where they happened.
In our concluding articles, Christina Sumner evokes an evening in the Thar Desert, immersed in a Sufi music festival, and Olivia Meehan reviews Rethinking Visual Narratives from Asia, taking us more deeply into the study of visual narrative in Asian art.
On a sadder note, we pay our respects to the memory of two long time TAASA members: Pamela Gutman, a great historian of Burmese art and culture, and Steven Zador, long term collector of Chinese ceramics.
3 EDITORIAL: PERFORMANCE & NARRATIVE IN ASIAN ART
Jim Masselos & Ann Proctor, Guest Editors
4 GODS, HEROES AND CLOWNS: PERFORMANCE AND NARRATIVE IN SOUTH ANDSOUTHEAST ASIAN ART – AN NGV EXHIBITION
7 CAMBODIAN NARRATIVES: TRANSFORMATIONS OF THE VESSANTARA JATAKA
Tuy Danel & Martin Polkinghorne
10 THE STORY OF RAMA: AN EXHIBITION AT THE NGA
13 I GUSTI NYOMAN LEMPAD’S NARRATIVE WORKS
16 THE BLACK NAZARENE, A PHILIPPINE NATIONAL ETHOS
19 JAPANESE FOLDS AT THE MUSEUM OF APPLIED ARTS AND SCIENCES, SYDNEY
20 COMMEMORATING BUDDHA’S PASSING: A JAPANESE NEHAN-ZU SCROLL AT THE NGV
22 COMMISSIONING TEMPLE MURALS IN A LAO VILLAGE – A PATRON’S PERSPECTIVE
24 THE THREE KHANS: KINGS OF THE HINDI CINEMA INDUSTRY...GODS TO MILLIONS
26 INK REMIX: CONTEMPORARY ART FROM MAINLAND CHINA, TAIWAN AND HONG KONG
27 IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN: AN EPIC PAINTING OF THE LIFE AND MIRACLES OF PABUJI
28 TRAVELLER’S CHOICE: THE WORLD SACRED SPIRIT FESTIVAL IN JODHPUR
29 BOOK REVIEW: RETHINKING VISUAL NARRATIVES FROM ASIA
30 PAMELA GUTMAN 1944 - 2015
Milton Osborne, Charlotte Galloway
31 RECENT TAASA ACTIVITIES
33 TAASA MEMBERS’ DIARY: JUNE – AUGUST 2015
34 WHAT’S ON: JUNE – AUGUST 2015
Compiled by Tina Burge