A general issue is always so stimulating, allowing the TAASA Review to range over a great variety of topics, many related to current events and exhibitions.
Asian arts enthusiasts in Sydney have been particularly well catered for recently with two major and interrelated Chinese exhibitions at the AGNSW: The First Emperor: China’s entombed warriors and Homage to the Ancestors: Ritual Art from the ChuKingdom. In this issue, Dr Liu Yang of the Art Gallery of NSW focuses on the significance of music in the ritual life of the Chu Kingdom based on musical instruments excavated from Chu Kingdom tombs from the late Western Zhou (c800 BCE) to the Warring States period (c475- 221 BCE). All the instruments he discusses can be currently seen in the latter exhibition.
While The First Emperor exhibition itself was covered in the December TR, this issue provides a lively review by Dr John Millbank of the associated 2 day seminar, Innovations and Creativity in Ancient Qin, jointly held by the AGNSW and Sydney University.
Another exhibition soon on show at the University Art Gallery, Sydney University will celebrate the legacy of Arthur Lindsay Sadler, Professor of Oriental Studies from 1922 to 1947, in stimulating exchange between Japanese print making traditions and Australian modernist artists. As co-curator Maria (Connie) Tornatore-Loong explains, this show will explore parallel developments between Australian and Japanese modernist prints, juxtaposed with European expressionist prints, bookplates and journals.
Gael Newton, Senior Curator of Photography at the NGA gives us a tantalising glimpse of works currently on display in the NGA’s Photography Gallery. A common thread in the diverse images on show in Here and There: Contemporary photomedia artists in Asiais the way in which these artists explore their cultural identities in the context of the current cultural engagement between the Euro-American “west” and Asia.
The potential for photography to provide insights more powerful than words is demonstrated in Gregory Fournier’s contribution, based on his two month journey on horseback travelling across Mongolia from the Orkhon valley to the high glaciers of the Altai region. I’m sure you will enjoy some of his spectacular images, recording aspects of present day Mongolian life
Textile lovers are offered two treats. Drawing from examples in his own collection, Trevor Vale discusses the colourful and highly symbolic altar aprons generally used to decorate side altar tables in Southeast Asian Chinese temples. Gill Green explores the link between two antique textiles – a cotton batik sarong from central Java and a silk tie dyed textile from Cambodia – which share a remarkably similar pictorial composition featuring early 20th century icons of modernity. Her current research is attempting to establish what the impetus was for such radical change to traditional motifs in each region and what the connection was between Java and Cambodia in relation to this development.
Staying in Southeast Asia, another collector shares her passion and expertise with TR readers. Michele Stephen’s article on Balinese masks convinces us that these objects must be seen, not just as aesthetic objects of great workmanship and variety, but also as vehicles for performance art and, above all, as evocations of sacred energies and powers essential at temple festivals and many domestic rituals.
We are also privileged to publish Dr Bob Hudson’s article on a horde of Buddha images and reliquaries unearthed from under the Hsutaung-pyi pagoda in Bagan in the 1975 earthquake. Archaeologists only later realized that some of these relics dated to the 13th century when the pagoda was originally consecrated. Bob Hudson was invited to photograph these pieces before they were re-enshrined in the restored stupa, and their publication in this issue provides valuable material for comparison with Bagan finds in other locations.
Buddhist ritual art is also the subject of Melanie Eastburn’s article describing a 19th century Thai Buddhist painted banner recently acquired by the NGA. This cotton banner is likely to have been displayed in a Buddhist temple in association with a festiva held in veneration of the 28 Buddhas of the past and Maitreya (the future Buddha). Such events continue to take place in Thailand as well as Cambodia, Burma and Laos.
We also offer a review by David Rehfuss on the book Southeast Asian Ceramics Museum - Bangkok University. While unfortunately only available in Bangkok, ceramics enthusiasts will be interested to know of the publication of this profusely illustrated catalogue, which also contains a useful chapter by the late Dr Roxanna Brown. And finally, testimony to the eclectic nature of this issue is a review of the newly opened Museum of Islamic Art, Doha by Marion Macdonald – as famous for its architecture by I.M. Pei as its relatively small but outstanding collection.
3 Editorial - Josefa Green
4 Ritual music of the Chu kingdom - Liu Yang
7 Masks that maintain the world - Michele Stephen
10 Revealed in the ruins: Buddha images and reliquaries from a Bagan pagoda - Bob Hudson
12 From traditional to modern: The impact of entrepreneurship on Southeast Asian textiles - Gill Green
15 The art of living with the nomads of Mongolia - Gregory Fournier
18 Square cloth for square tables: Altar aprins in Chinese temples in SE Asia - Trevor Vale
20 Exhibition preview: Japan in Sydney -: Arthur Lindsay Sadler, Japan and Australian modernism 1920s – 1930s - Maria (Connie) Tornatore – Loong
22 In the public domain: A Thai Buddhist Banner at the NGA - Melanie Eastburn
24 Inn ovations and Creativity in Ancient Qin: A joint seminar by the Art Gallery of NSW and Sydney University - John Millbank
26 Traveller’s Choice: Museum of Islamic Art, Doha - Marion Macdonald
27 Book Review : Southeast Asian Ceramics Museum – Bangkok University - David Rehfuss
28 At the NGA: Here and There: Contemporary Photomedia Artists in Asia - Gael Newton
29 Recent TAASA activities
29 TAASA Members’ Diary
30 What's on in Australia and overseas: March - May 2011 - Compiled by Tina Burge