As you can see, this is a very special issue of the TAASA Review, to celebrate TAASA’s 20th anniversary.
Given the central place of the TAASA Review over TAASA’s 20 year life, it seemed fitting to do something special, an idea enthusiastically supported by the Publications Committee. We felt that this was an opportunity for us to step back, not only to review TAASA’s past activities, but, more broadly, to assess developments in the Asian arts in Australia over the last 20 years to the present.
This conception has driven the approach taken in this issue. It is divided into 3 main sections. TAASA’s Legacy aims to honour the many people who have been involved with TAASA over time – committee members, service providers, supportive art institutions and members. In State of the Arts, we have commissioned a number of experts to assess developments in the Asian arts field, including performing arts, and have widened our reach beyond Australia to cover interesting developments elsewhere. Finally, in Repository of Riches, we have tried to give a feel for the range of Asian objects which can be found in the collections of our major arts institutions.
Our opening article in the TAASA’s Legacy section is by current TAASA President, Gill Green. In outlining TAASA’s history, she takes the opportunity to thank the many people involved in its creation and consolidation. We hope you enjoy the archival photos dug up from some of the very earliest issues of the TAASA Review.
The remaining articles in this section offer reminiscences by those who have been closely involved with TAASA over the years: ex-President Jackie Menzies and our first TAASA Review editor, Heleanor Feltham; four members of our very active Sydney based Textile Study Group and finally, the voices of a range of TAASA members who discuss how they became interested in Asian arts and involved with TAASA. We are only too conscious that space has not permitted us to include the many other Asian arts enthusiasts and loyal TAASA supporters that make up our membership.
State of the Arts is the central component of this issue. A number of articles focus on key initiatives in the Asian arts field over the last 20 years. Katherine Russell covers some of the main Asian art exhibitions we have enjoyed around Australia, convincingly arguing that, while these have not often achieved ‘blockbuster’ status, they have forged new ground through their innovative designs and experiential approach.
One major private sector player in the Australian cultural scene since the early 1980’s has been the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation (SCAF). Gene Sherman provides a personal account of what inspired her to promote contemporary Asian art with such passion, and outlines the impressive list of exhibitions and related initiatives taken by the then Irving Galleries and now SCAF. Her article also acknowledges some of the other major players in the contemporary Asian arts scene in Australia in the same period.
One major initiative mentioned by Gene Sherman is covered more fully by Michael Desmond’s article. This is the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT) which was launched in 1993, with great prescience, by the Queensland Art Gallery. Michael Desmond assesses the way in which successive APTs have encouraged interest in the arts and wider culture of Asia, at the same time putting Brisbane on the cultural map.
As Michael Desmond points out, the current proliferation of rival biennials in the Asian region has affected the impact of the APTs. This is illustrated by Gina Fairley’s article, which notes that around 25 of the 80 or so international biennales/triennials are now held in Asia. She examines how Asian cities such as Singapore and Hong Kong are competing to offer the ‘hottest’ shows and fairs, and wonders how artistic achievement can be critically assessed given the way in which these events have become ‘so thoroughly massaged and hyped’.
We offer three further articles on the current international contemporary arts scene – aimed more at providing a tasting menu than a comprehensive review. Chaitanya Sambrani explains the intention behind a fascinating multi-disciplinary project he co-instigated, which involved a select group of Chinese and Indian artists undertaking journeys to each other’s countries. The visual art component opened in Shanghai in 2010.
Darryl Collins provides a very useful overview of current developments in Cambodia, where we are witnessing a mushrooming of private galleries in the capital and elsewhere. Gael Newton surveys current developments in photography in Singapore, beginning with her observations while participating in the inaugural Singapore International Photography Festival in 2008.
Two initiatives aimed at encouraging engagement between Australian artists and Asia are also covered in this issue. The Director of Asialink Arts, Lesley Alway, explains the aims of its Residency program and gives tangible examples of how some have benefited from it. Phoebe Scott interviews some of our current arts students, exploring what has motivated them to learn more about Asian art and culture, and how this has affected their work to date.
TAASA has tried to maintain a commitment to cover the performing arts, and this is reflected by the remaining articles in this State of the Arts section. Adrienne McKibbins dissects Hindi cinema, arguing that the terms ‘Bollywood’ and ‘globalisation’ are both misleadingly applied to this industry. Jill Sykes offers personal insights into where Asian dance has gone in Australia over the last two decades. And we are delighted that Peter Sculthorpe has contributed a piece which describes the beginnings of his engagement with Asia, its music and ideas.
Finally, in our “In Performance” segment, four groups or individuals who currently perform Asian music in Australia are profiled: Adrian McNeil with Bobby Singh; Queensland Conservatorium’s Gamelan Ensemble, the Nefes Ensemble and Riley Lee.
So to the last segment of our ‘twice the size’ TAASA Review. Repository of Riches dips into the treasure chest which is the Asian art collections of our public art institutions. We asked the key curators from a selection of institutions to nominate one significant piece from their collection, and to explain why it is significant both as a work of art and in the context of the wider collection. We hope you enjoy the results!
As a final comment, this issue represents, like TAASA, a community of interest. It has involved many people generously offering their time and expertise: past and present committee members, expert contributors, TAASA members and above all, members of the Publications Committee who worked hard to produce it. Thanks also to the Powerhouse Museum for its generous sponsorship of this special anniversary issue.
4 EDITORIAL: 20 YEARS OF TAASA - Josefa Green
6 BUILDING ON TAASA'S FOUNDATIONS - Gill Green
10 TAASA RECOLLECTED - Jackie Menzies and Heleanor Feltham
12 A COMMUNITY OF INTEREST: THE TAASA TEXTILE GROUP
14 TAASA MEMBERS' MEMOIRS
STATE OF THE ARTS
20 AN IMMERSIVE EXPERIENCE: INNOVATIVE ASIAN ART EXHIBITIONS IN AUSTRALIA - Katherine Russell
23 20 YEARS OF CONTEMPORARY ASIAN ART IN AUSTRALIA: A PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE - Gene Sherman
26 APT THEN AND NOW - Michael Desmond
28 DOUBLE DIP: THE ASIAN BIENNALE AND ART FAIR - Gina Fairley
31 PLACE.TIME.PLAY: CONTEMPORARY ART FROM THE WEST HEAVENS TO THE MIDDLE KINGDOM - Chaitanya Sambrani
34 50,000 DAYS IN ASIA : THE ASIALINK ARTS RESIDENCY PROGRAM - Lesley Alway
36 A NEW NAGA RISING: CAMBODIAN CONTEMPORARY ART - Darryl Collins
38 GALLERY 2902 & CONTEMPORARY SINGAPORE PHOTOGRAPHY - Gael Newton
42 BEYOND FIRST IMPRESSIONS: STUDENT PERSPECTIVES ON ASIAN ART - Phoebe Scott
44 HINDI CINEMA AND THE PARADOX OF GLOBALISATION - Adrienne McKibbins
46 ASIAN DANCE IN AUSTRALIA - Jill Sykes
48 EARLY ENCOUNTERS WITH ASIA - Peter Sculthorpe
50 IN PERFORMANCE: ASIAN MUSIC MAKING IN AUSTRALIA
REPOSITORY OF RICHES
54 CURATOR 'S CHOICE: ASIAN TREASURE FROM AUSTRALIA'S PUBLIC COLLECTIONS
60 RECENT TAASA ACTIVITI ES
61 TAASA MEMBERS' DIARY: DECEMBER 2011- FEBRUARY 2012
63 WHAT'S ON IN AUSTRALIA: DECEMBER 2011-FEBRUARY 2012
Compiled by Tina Burge