The topic of 'adornment' will feature strongly this year: at VisAsia's lunchtime lecture series at the AGNSW, where TAASA will also run a seminar on jewellery on 25 July, and as part of the NGV's coming exhibition on Chinese imperial robes. So it seems appropriate for this first issue of 2009 to open with an article on embroidered and needle worked objects of adornment, as found in the 19th and early 20th century homes of any respectable nyonya or female member of the Peranakan Chinese community in Singapore. Hwei-Fe'n Cheah has completed her PhD on this topic and offers us a comprehensive overview of this art form, now on show in the newly opened Singapore Peranakan Museum.
In this issue we offer a number of "firsts". In the intriguingly named article "As Australian as a Shakuhachi", first time contributor Dr Riley Lee describes how this traditional Japanese flute has become "internationalised" through a series of world festivals over the last 15 years, culminating in the highly successful Sydney World Shakuhachi Festival in 2008. Riley became the first ever non-Japanese shakuhachi Grand Master in 1980 and we are really delighted to have such an outstanding musician share his expertise.
You will also find our first ever article from Bhutan, contributed by Tshering Tashi, co-founder and director of the Australia Bhutan Friendship Association. He describes the extraordinary dance rituals performed by Buddhist monks in festivals across Bhutan. His account encourages us to see beyond the spectacle, to understand the deeper sacred and meditative purpose of these ritual dances. Another first time contributor is Matt Cox from the AGNSW, providing an interesting perspective on the influences shaping Islamic architecture in Malaysia. He convincingly argues that, though the presence of Indian and Persian influences has more usually been explained as the peripheral consequence of English intervention in the 20th century, three 18th century Malaccan mosques demonstrate much earlier Indo-Persian influences of the Deccan kingdom of Bidjapur, that flourished from 1490 to 1686.
This Islamic theme is echoed by the interview I was privileged to have with Stefano Carboni, newly appointed Director the Art Gallery of Western Australia and Islamic Art expert. In his distinguished career, including as Curator and Administrator of the Department of Islamic Art at the Metropolitan Museum, New York, Dr Carboni has been responsible for such ground breaking exhibitions as "Venice and the Islamic World: 828- 1797" in 2007. He tells us that his principal interest lies in exploring the way Islamic art and culture has provided a bridge between East and West.
Susan Scollay's review of the Hampi exhibition at the Immigration Museum in Melbourne also touches on cross cultural influences, in this case in relation to the Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagara, which stood for over 200 years on the frontier of India's Hindu and Muslim cultures and which was eventually destroyed by its Mughal neighbours in 1565. This exhibition is also a 'first' in the way it draws on archaeology, photography, computer animation and interactive media to bring the village of Hampi, within the ruins of the Vijayanagara kingdom, to vivid life. An example of John Gollings' brilliant photography, taken from the Hampi exhibition, is demonstrated on the cover of this issue.
Enthusiasts of East Asian art will be interested in the next three articles on Japanese, Korean and Chinese topics. Andrea Wise and Melanie Eastburn from the NGA cover, respectively, the conservation and art historical aspects of the NGA's Kamakura period (1185-1333) scroll "Buddha and the sixteen protectors". This scroll has recently been restored courtesy of the Japanese Government and will be exhibited in the AGSA's exhibition "The Golden Journey", opening 6 March.
Another important exhibition, opening 5 March at the AGNSW, is "Korean dreams", featuring late Joseon dynasty paintings from the Musée Guimet, Paris. Jackie Menzies, head curator of Asian Art, explains how neo- Confucian and other influences produced a broad new repertoire of paintings in this period. These will be featured in this exhibition and discussed at a study day on 7 March. In the last of this trio, Dr John Millbank reports on the Chinese Buddhist Art symposium held in August 2008 in conjunction with the AGNSW's exhibition "The Lost Buddhas".
A general issue of the TAASA Review provides an opportunity to offer a diverse range of topics to our readers. No matter what your interests, you should find a number of items to enjoy.
3 Editorial: Something for everyone - Josefa Green
4 Hand me down: Peranakan Chinese beadwork and embroidery - Hwei-Fe’n Cheah
7 As Australian as a Shakuhachi - Riley Lee
9 The dancing monks of Bhutan - Tshering Tashi
11 Indo-Persian kingship and Islamic architecture in Malaysia - Matt Cox
13 Interviewing Stefano Carboni - Josefa Green
14 Exhibition review: Imagining Hampi - Susan Scollay
16 Preserving Buddha and the sixteen protectors - Andrea Wise and Melanie Eastburn
18 Confucian conceits: Korean painting in the Joseon dynasty - Jackie Menzies
20 Chinese Buddhist art symposium: Finding meaning in the lost Buddhas - John Millbank
22 Collector’s choice: Mural art of Kerala - Vimala Sarma
23 Book review: Pictures on silk - Milton Osborne
24 Recent TAASA activities
25 TAASA member’s diary
26 What’s on: March – May 2009