TAASA Review issues
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Leading off this first issue for 2023 are two related articles foreshadowing a significant exhibition on Chinese belt toggles, opening in April at the Chau Chak Wing Museum: a welcome collaboration between this museum and the Powerhouse. Possibly a forerunner of the more well-known Japanese netsuke, toggles were no longer used in China by the early 20th century and only a few collections of these delightful objects in miniature survive – one being held in the Powerhouse. Min Jung-Kim’s article provides us with an excellent overview of the collection and the history of toggles, while curator Shuxia Chen offers a tantalising glimpse of the forthcoming exhibition at Chau Chak Wing’s China Gallery, part of a wider project involving a major publication and educational programs.
One theme running through this issue is the way in which digital tools can enhance access to and appreciation of works of art. Eileen Chanin emphasizes how the recent digitalization of Indian miniature paintings donated by Jim Masselos to the Art Gallery of NSW (see December 2022 TAASA Review) has made these paintings accessible to all. She uses this resource to demonstrate the variety of styles and subject matter found in the genre of Indian Company School painting.
Digital engagement with art objects can offer more radical benefits. Mark Allon, Ian McCrabb and Michael Skinner describe their work over the last seven years as part of a consortium of local and international scholars that is developing a suite of digital frameworks which will provide a wide range of scholarly information online about Gandharan material. They amply demonstrate the value of their project through one case study: a beautiful Gandharan Buddha Triad currently on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Their article walks through the various ways in which in depth information about this object is provided through the digital tools they are developing.
More traditional methods of interrogation of historic material are evident in the fascinating story told by Elizabeth Anya-Petrivna, National Trust Victoria curator, about a project which has restored a segment of wallpaper at the historic Melbourne mansion Rippon Lea. Her article describes ‘a complex and inspirational restoration journey’ involving investigative work by paper conservators confirming the paper’s Japanese manufacture, and the subsequent commissioning of a replacement segment of this Japanese leather paper from the Kinkarakami Institute in Japan.
Extensive ‘on the ground’ research was also undertaken by Lesley Pullen in exploring the kawung patterned textile carved on the hip wrappers of so many stone statues from the 13th to 15th century in Java. Her article explores the origins and profound meaning of this ubiquitous motif which has left its legacy right through to the textile markets in Java in the 21st century.
Indonesian textiles have been a key focus of the collection of Michael Abbott AO, KC whose extensive donations to Australian cultural institutions are being commemorated in the publication Interwoven journeys: The Michael Abbott collections of Asian art edited by James Bennett and Russell Kelty and published by the Art Gallery of South Australia. James Bennett describes the range of textiles, sculptures and other artefacts that have formed part of the Abbott collection and reviews the planned publication which is likely to prove popular with TAASA members.
As recently appointed Head Curator for International Art at the National Gallery of Australia, Russell Storer provides some thoughtful reflections on the role of national institutions in representing local and regional culture, and uses his curatorial experiences at the National Gallery, Singapore to draw out ‘important parallels and instructive differences’ in the curatorial and collecting approaches of these two institutions.
Yin Cao, AGNSW Curator of Chinese Art, conveys the result of a lively conversation she held with emerging artist NC Qin about her artistic practices. She draws out the deep symbolic resonances of NC Qin’s work, both historical and contemporary, which uses cast recycled glass that under high temperature firing and painstaking polishing can be turned into beautiful pieces looking like jade.
The recent exhibition by artist Mai Nguyen-Long at the 12th Berlin Biennale is covered by Adam Porter in the context of the overall theme of this Biennale. He discusses in detail one of her installations which consists of clay figures of talismanic-like forms, inspired by 16th - 18th century dinh wood carvings from the Red River Delta of Northern Vietnam.
Finally, we offer two book reviews in this issue: Ann Toy reviews a groundbreaking study of the history of Chinese furniture manufacturing in Australia by historian Peter Gibson. Gael Newton covers Australian collector/ researcher Scott Merrillees’ most recent publication on postcards made in Indonesia from 1900 to independence from Netherlands rule in 1945.
Table of contents
3 EDITORIAL - Josefa Green
4 CHINESE BELT TOGGLES FROM THE POWERHOUSE COLLECTION - Min-Jung Kim
6 CHINESE TOGGLES: CULTURE IN MINIATURE - A CHAU CHAK WING AND POWERHOUSE MUSEUM PROJECT - Shuxia Chen
7 THE VISUAL VOCABULARY OF THE 'KAWUNG' PATTERN OF INTERLOCKING CIRCLES IN JAVA - Lesley S Pullen
10 INTERWOVEN JOURNEYS: THE MICHAEL ABBOTT COLLECTIONS OF ASIAN ART - James Bennett
12 REBIRTH IN GLASS: THE WORK OF NC QIN - Yin Cao
14 KINKARAKAMI – RESTORING JAPANESE WALLPAPER AT RIPPON LEA - Elizabeth Anya-Petrivna
16 REGIONAL SOLIDARITIES: COLLECTIONS AT NATIONAL GALLERY SINGAPORE AND THE NATIONAL GALLERY OF AUSTRALIA - Russell Storer
18 MAKING INDIAN COMPANY SCHOOL PAINTING AVAILABLE - Eileen Chanin
20 MANY FACES, ONE DISPOSITION: MAI NGUYEN-LONG AND THE 12TH BERLIN BIENNALE - Adam Porter
22 DIGITAL ENGAGEMENT AND SCHOLARSHIP: THE CASE OF THE YEAR 5 BUDDHA TRIAD, A GANDHARAN MASTERPIECE - Mark Allon, Ian McCrabb, Michael Skinner
24 BOOK REVIEW: MADE IN CHINATOWN - Ann Toy
25 BOOK REVIEW: FACES OF INDONESIA - Gael Newton
26 RECENT TAASA ACTIVITIES
28 TAASA MEMBERS’ DIARY: MARCH – MAY 2023
30 WHAT’S ON: MARCH – MAY 2023