Amid the coronavirus outbreak and Chinese New Year celebrations, a bold and timely art exhibition has begun at Gallery Lane Cove
We are fortunate to live in such a culturally diverse part of the world, and currently many in our local area are celebrating Chinese Lunar New Year with the shared benefits of colourful ceremonies, delicious food and fun events. We’ve come to know that the dragon features prominently in Lunar New Year celebrations and that it is an intrinsic symbol of Chinese culture, however the links to this mythical creature run deeper than you may be aware. Compounded by time, literature, politics and music, the Chinese people have come to be regarded and referred to as descendants of the dragon.
The mythology is linked strongly to notions of strength, fire, fearlessness – and, of course, masculinity. But how do female descendants figure in modern day Australia? This fascinating question recently gave rise to a bold new art exhibition, Daughters of the Dragon, now on at Gallery Lane Cove. Described as “an intergenerational dialogue that explores the notion of female Chinese experience and identity in contemporary Australia”, it is the work of three generations of female Chinese artists, Tianli Zu, Mimi Tong and Chun Yin Rainbow Chan.
Image: Mimi Tong, Sydney Lunar Flora (Daughter & Son collaboration) 悉尼年花, 2019 – 20
The artists have responded to the powerful themes that arise from acknowledging strong past cultural ties whilst living in a new land and culture. The intricacies of cultural entanglement, integration, kinship and community are addressed by the works in the exhibition.
First generation Australian Tianli Zu responded in the most direct manner. In reinterpreting the Dragon myth, she has retained many of its traditional elements with surprising contemporary twists, including addressing climate emergency as a powerful magical being. Tianli’s choice of artwork media and method mirrors the effortless blend of her ethnic culture (Chinese style papercuts) and contemporary western forms of creativity (animation, video projection and soundscape). Yet in her message and delivery, she preserves a curtain of subtlety about her personal experiences of being Chinese and Australian.
In contrast, second generation Australian Mimi Tong expresses her cultural identity through an abstract rendition of Chinese calligraphy’s gesture and the co-existence of classical Chinese and native Australian flora. The calligraphy inspired large-scale site-specific installation resembles a three-dimensional drawing in space, executed as a solo effort. The work’s content speaks of harmony between the two cultures whereas the process of involving her two children is a nod to intergenerational relationships, the Chinese value of kinship and care as well as the passing down of traditions to future generations.
Rainbow Chan who emigrated to Australia as a young child embraces the heritage of her original homeland with a three-part work based on her current research on Weitou village women’s oral history and social rituals. Instead of a lingering nostalgia, she communicates passion and curiosity about her ancestral ties to the Weitou people of Hong Kong while acknowledging the inevitable tensions between past and future, the East and West. Her multidisciplinary methodology combines video, soundscape and Chinese text characters with vivid qualities.
Together, these artists present the picture of possibilities for female descendants of the dragon in contemporary Australia – one that is socially engaged and connected to its land, environment and continuing to embrace what it is and means to be Chinese
Image: Tianli Zu, Shen Long 神龍, 2019-20
The Daughters of the Dragon exhibition has also taken on a new shade of importance and purpose In the recent context of anti-Chinese sentiment that has arisen from public panic around the novel coronavirus outbreak. Though distinctively Chinese in family origins, artists in this show are firmly Australian even as they embrace their cultural heritage. These women might be ethnic Chinese but they are very much a part of Australian culture and, through their creative practice, cultural ambassadors of the country. These daughters, as with all Chinese-Australian women, are not others to be feared and excluded– they are also daughters of Australia, and part of the multicultural fabric of this country.
Daughters of the Dragon is on from 30 January – 27 February. Curated by Rachael Kiang.
For further information: www.gallerylanecove.com.au/
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Tianli Zu is an award winning Chinese-Australian multimedia artist. Her varied practice explores the complex relationships between light and shadow. With a Master of Fine Arts and a Doctor of Philosophy, Dr Zu is an Adjunct Associate Professor at Western Sydney University with over 30 years’ experience as a practising artist. Zu creates large-scale papercuts by hand and uses cinematic animation projections that weave through history and the present.
Mimi Tong is a mid-career artist working across drawing and installation. She is a sessional lecturer in the Faculty of Architecture, University of Sydney and UNSW Art & Design. Tong’s practice is informed by an interest in time. While her focus is on drawings and installation, she has developed video art and mixed media works as well.
Chun Yin Rainbow Chan is an interdisciplinary artist of Hong Kong descent, living on Gadigal Land, Sydney. Chan creates immersive installations comprising of experimental music, video, and sculpture, which draw upon her background in popular music and the diasporic experience. Chan is an accomplished musician, singer, song-writer and composer. She also lectures at the University of Sydney.
PUBLIC PROGRAM EVENTS
Make Your Own Red Packet with Artist-Facilitator: Natalie Tso
Friday 7 Feb 3:30-6pm
This fun-filled creative workshop will engage participants of all ages to make their own red packets, with templates designed by our artist-facilitator.
Create your own take-home Lunar New Year handiwork or give them away with sweets and coins to friends.
Performance Art (Sound-based) by Chun Yin Rainbow Chan, followed by Panel Discussion with the artists
Saturday 8 February 11am – 12 noon
Gallery Lane Cove
Book via link below
Paper Cutting Workshop with Dr Tianli Zu
Saturday 15 February 2-4pm $15
Gallery Lane Cove + Creative Studios
Guy Warren Studio
Book via link below
Main image: Chun Yin Rainbow Chan, Loop 循環, 2020