This December edition of the TAASA Review, is indeed a collaborative effort: Josefa Green and myself soliciting articles, Sandra Forbes completing the bulk of the editorial work, and finally myself pulling it all together! Excellent teamwork from the TAASA Publications committee!!
This Review was intended as general issue, but in early 2009, our publications team discovered that Australia was offering this year a most vibrant and exciting exhibition scene, especially in the context of contemporary Asian art. Since July, Sydney has played host to the Australian Ceramics Triennale has seen the opening in August of the exciting new private museum specializing in Chinese contemporary art, White Rabbit, and has witnessed the stirring performance art of Indonesian Dadang Christanto at Gallery 4A. In addition, in Brisbane, on December 5th, the sixth Australian Triennal of Asian Pacific Art (APT) a major regional forum for contemporary art, will open at the Queensland Art Gallery (QAG). To complete the Asian exhibition coverage with a more traditional theme, we feature an article on the stunning Indian art collection of the royal Rathore family of Jodhpur, now on show at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. So if this edition were to have a title, ‘Australian Asian art exhibitions and Events 2009’ would seem a most appropriate one.
The 2009 APT at the QAG is a culmination of sixteen years showcasing the exciting developments in contemporary art in our region, amongst the most dynamic in the global context. ( See TAASA Reviews Aug 93; Dec 96; Sep 99; Sep, Dec 02; Dec 06 ) Here, Russell Storer traces the changes in the aims and orientation of the Triennial, showing how it has responded over the years to the artistic movements in Asia and the Pacific. From an early focus on a general introduction to artists and practices in the region, to that of looking at individual practices, it is now launching its most ambitious project yet, in 2009 exhibiting over 100 artists from 25 countries. This APT presents challenging questions on the intrinsic meaning of contemporary art, covering its varied practices, forms and approaches, and goes on to explore the dominant themes that preoccupy contemporary Asian artists – popular culture, consumerism, social issues, dislocation, place and identity, and many more.
These themes certainly feature with the artists of the White Rabbit Gallery, Chippendale. Elizabeth Keenan describes how, in the context of what are universal social and economic pressures of life today, these artists interpret aspects both of traditional and modern life in China to produce works of striking creativity, wit, and freshness - especially in the inventive range of media used. The work of White Rabbit artists are represented on both our front and back covers this edition.
Alexandra Crosby, writing from the Venice Biennale, discusses how the Singaporean artist – curator team Ming Wong and Tang Fu Kuen manipulate stereotypes of race, gender and nationality, to show the changing nature of cultural identity in an increasingly global world. Wong does this with wit and humour through the medium of video, giving insights into the changing interpretations of national film and its identities.
Underlying many of the works of Asian artists discussed in this review is an awareness of tradition, where traditional media and art practices have been revised or reinterpreted using contemporary methods and ideas. This is evident in the work as much at the APT as it was in that of the emerging ceramicists at the Ceramics Triennale. Many of these artists draw their inspiration from Asia, especially China, as reflected in the title of one of its 40 exhibitions Another Silk Road. The Review carries this theme further with a report on the TAASA seminar on The Silk Road held in Sydney in September. A series of speakers offered a variety of perspectives on the history, architecture, art and texture of human life in the Silk Road cities from antiquity to the present. Leigh Mackay also presents here a fascinating article on the oldest preserved Persian pile carpet ever excavated, from Pazyryk on the edges of the Silk Road in North Central Asia, thought to be from a 3rd century BCE Persian inspired workshop.
For lovers of sculpture and Khmer art, this edition of TAASA Review carries a leading article on contemporary and medieval stone workshops in Cambodia, by Martin Polkinghorne. Martin’s detailed research provides new light on the methods and practices of the artists who continue to pass on exquisite carving techniques from centuries - old prototypes .
This December edition of TAASA I think offers something for everyone. In particular, it offers insights into the vibrant exhibition scene Australia is offering its public in Asian art, especially contemporary art. The APT in Brisbane continues until April 2010, don’t miss it!