Two major exhibitions are covered by this issue of the TAASA Review.
Looking ahead to June, the much awaited Treasure Ships: Art in the Age of Spices will be shown at the Art Gallery of South Australia, from 13 June to 30 August, moving on to the Art Gallery of Western Australia from 9 October to 28 January 2016. Its co-curators, James Bennett and Russell Kelty, have each written a background piece for this issue. James has provided a helpful overview of the east-west cultural exchange that accompanied the intense commercial activities between European maritime powers and Asia from around 1500 to 1800. Russell’s article focuses on the European impact on Japanese art and fashion from the late 16th century through traders based in Nagasaki and other ports.
At the National Gallery of Victoria, members will soon be able to enjoy a major exhibition from the Palace Museum, Beijing. A Golden Age of China, Qianlong Emperor (1736-1795) will showcase more than 120 works relating to the reign of the Qianlong Emperor, including items from court life and objects reflecting the tastes and interests of this assiduous collector and patron of the arts. Senior Curator of Asian Art at the NGV, Mae Anna Pang, places this exhibition in its context and describes some of its key exhibits.
We are also pleased in this issue to be able to offer a special contribution from Gael Newton, until recently Senior Curator of Photography at the National Gallery of Australia. Following her retirement in September 2014, we invited Gael to reflect on her work of the last decade, building the NGA’s highly respected collection of Asia-Pacific photography. Gael’s energy and enthusiasm is very apparent in this personal account and we look forward to hearing about her next projects!
Remaining articles in this issue offer an eclectic range of topics. Many TR readers will be aware of Hwei-Fen Cheah’s ongoing engagement with Peranakan culture, particularly the textile traditions of these locally born Chinese communities in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. In this issue, she provides a thorough outline of the styles and techniques found in Paranakan gold thread embroidery at various centres.
From textiles, we move to the distinctive vernacular architecture found in the hill region of Himachal Pradesh in the western Himalayas of northwest India. Margaret White has made good use of her recent visit to this remote region, describing how the timeless construction methods and materials used here in homes and temples have developed in response to regional climatic conditions, though currently responding to more modern trends.
An architectural project which beautifully combines contemporary and traditional features - in this case, elements of both Australian and Chinese design - can be found closer to home at the ANU’s Australian Centre on China in the World. Geremie R. Barmé, its current Director, has described the intent behind the design of this complex, which functions as a research institution for China studies.
For our Traveller’s Choice feature, Claudia Hyles provides an entertaining account of her recent visit to the less well traversed towns and countryside of West Bengal. She paints a vivid picture of its history, monuments, distinctive architecture and artisan traditions.
Our cover image provides a clue to our regular In the Public Domain feature. Melanie Eastburn describes the three beautiful Khmer sculptures currently on loan to the NGA from the National Museum of Cambodia. The NGA also hosted a function in late 2014 to honour the Queen Mother of Bhutan. Her visit, described in Meredith Hinchliffe’s article, aimed, amongst other things, to promote Bhutanese textiles and resulted in the donation of a kira or full length woman’s garment to the NGA, woven specifically for this visit.
We offer two book reviews in this issue. Siobhan Campbell reviews a sumptuous and comprehensive biography of the Balinese artist I Gusti Nyoman Lempad. Gill Green reviews a book published on woven Burmese manuscript binding tapes – seemingly one for the specialist but, as Gill writes, a testament to the role played by the passion of collectors of lesser known arts in preserving objects and their cultural heritage.
Finally, we direct your attention to our Members’ diary on p29 – now taking a full page, testifying to TAASA’s very active program for the next few months. We hope you enjoy some or all of these activities, and a selection of photos taken at TAASA’s end of year party held in Sydney last December.
4 TREASURE SHIPS: ART IN THE AGE OF SPICES AT AGSA
7 NAGASAKI: WHERE THE LAND ENDS AND THE SEA BEGINS
9 A GOLDEN AGE OF CHINA, QIANLONG EMPEROR – EXHIBITION AT THE NGV
Mae Anna Pang
12 CURATORLAND – REFLECTIONS ON BUILDING THE NGA’S ASIA-PACIFIC PHOTOGRAPHY COLLECTION
16 GOLD THREAD EMBROIDERIES OF THE PERANAKAN CHINESE
19 HIMACHAL PRADESH: HILL ARCHITECTURE IN ‘THE ABODE OF THE SNOW’
21 IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN: CAMBODIAN LOANS TO THE NGA
22 TRAVELLER’S CHOICE: REVISITING HISTORY IN WEST BENGAL
24 AUSTRALIAN CENTRE ON CHINA IN THE WORLD AT THE ANU
Geremie R Barmé
25 BOOK REVIEW: BURMESE MANUSCRIPT BINDING TAPES
26 BOOK REVIEW: LEMPAD OF BALI
27 QUEEN MOTHER OF BHUTAN’S VISIT TO THE NGA
28 RECENT TAASA ACTIVITIES
29 TAASA MEMBERS’ DIARY: MARCH 2015 – MAY 2015
30 WHAT’S ON: MARCH 2015 – MAY 2015
Compiled by Tina Burge