CHINESE art has become an important part of Contemporary art in Australia, so the current exhibition, Chinese Whispers at Goulburn Regional Art Gallery, is right on track.
Gallery curator, Angela D'Elia, came up with the idea of a Chinese Whisper to be passed among 12 selected Chinese artists working in Australia to inspire new art work for the exhibition. The whisper, in the form of a poem, was passed around from artist to artist leaving wide open the possibly of many individual interpretations.
The resulting exhibition is a blaze of colours, riotous imagination, dragons and monsters, reflections on cultural identity, and contemporary social and political issues. It is great to see the gallery space opened up - instead of a central dividing wall which is necessary when large exhibitions are installed - an installation, 'Concrete Sky' by Jason Wing, of 14 manipulated traditional paper scrolls hang from the ceiling signifying the significantly changed landscape of modern China.
The original whisper read over the phone to the first artist was:
Over hills and dales,
Through deep darkness and blazing light,
Hide incredible creatures,
Their patternings delight.
For artist Fan Dongwang, this became: 'Over the hill, there is a deep water, singing and dancing is an incredible dragon monster.'
Stand back and admire the amazing detail of this large drawing - 2x5m (Dragon in Water 2014 coloured pencil on 200gsm archival paper). It is an inspiration to any child with a box of coloured pencils, so make a point of visiting the children's corner of the gallery to see the results of the children's art program run by Gallery education officer, Sally O'Neill.
There is ambiguity in the large colourful, oil on canvas paintings by Louise Zhang, such beautiful strong colours - hot pinks, blues, violets - reminiscent of Chinese silks without the pretty patterns.
Zhang says: "The relationship between attraction and repulsion has been a key focus in my practice and in playing with these themes I chose to translate this whisper through its ambivalent nature."
Kevin Chin is another artist working with this ambiguity in his realist and almost three-dimensional paintings - "Cover up" and "Touch up" both oil on linen, 2014.
"The paintings in 'Chinese Whispers' are a result of my research in Japan as a Chinese-Malaysian-Australian migrant and the cultural dislocation I experienced," he said.
Guan Wei says the project reminded him of his childhood in Beijing when, on a camping holiday a message was passed back through the group as they were walking. The message began, "there is a creek ahead" and ended with "there is a dog ahead".
This artist's work carries many layers of meaning and perhaps we interpret it through our own experience and cultural lens.
D'Elia writes in the catalogue essay that the idea behind the Chinese whisper was "that there was something there for everyone: a landscape, figures, textures, design, colour or monochrome, a literal or abstract interpretation".
There is certainly something for everyone to appreciate and enjoy in this exhibition at GRAG until January 31.