Sunday, 10 March 2013

GUEST POST: Elizabeth Little tackles the APT - Part II

Michael Cook
Be sure to read Part I of this article.

Several artists have produced works that incorporate ideas of merging cultures and colonisation. Michael Cook (Australia) draws our attention to the British colonisation of Australia and ponders what might have been if the colonisers had recognised the culture of the indigenous peoples, and how things might have been if other European countries who had encountered Australia had settled here. His delicate sepia toned photographs, Civilised,  shows Indigenous Australians in the European dress of France, Spain, The Netherlands as well as Britain, and incorporates text from letters written in the 19th Century. Graham Fletcher (New Zealand/Samoa) series of paintings, Lounge Room Tribalism, reproduces the feel of mid 20th Century design magazines, where the cultural objects of Pacific Islanders have been reduced to interior decoration. Papua New Guinea’s Iatapal Cultural Group has incorporated traditional Catholic statues of the Virgin Mary with their traditional religious iconography in Mary (2011).
Graham Fletcher

Graham Fletcher
Parastou Forouhar (Iran/Germany) has decorated an entire room, walls and floor, in what appears to be a flowing Arabic script. Written room (1999–ongoing) was like standing in the middle of a poem. Forouhar’s language turns out to be her own invention, and while not having a direct meaning it felt full of potential meaning, if only I could grasp it.
Parastou Forouhar
Zhou Tiehai’s (China) Le juge (2006–08) is based on a series of French deserts that take their name from the professions.  Le Juge covers the walls of an entire room, and consists of more than 150 small paintings, which invite the viewer to ‘read’ them in sequential order and try to complete a narrative. The paintings are a diverse range of images from the desert itself to reproductions of well known paintings (Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People), to cartoons and commercial art. Edwin Roseno (Indonesia) has also produced multiple individual images in his Green hypermarket series (2011-12). Roseno comments on the fragile nature of the world’s ecology through the use of native plants growing in discarded food packaging containers. The 150 images vary in size, depending on the plant and its packaging home.
Zhou Tiehai

Zhou Tiehai
Edwin Roseno

Edwin Roseno
Tomoko Kashiki (Japan) is represented by three large paintings, all with the same eerie, whimsical quality. Kashiki incorporates both traditional Japanese and Western painting techniques in her works. In Eating Grass (2011) a figure sits on (or possibly floats above) a unidentifiable landscape, eating greens with vibrant red chopsticks; while in Reverbatory Furnace (2012) an elegant woman walks towards us through a pool of water, her face obscured by a red umbrella, one striped sock falling to her ankle.
Tomoko Kashiki

Tomoko Kashiki

I’m not usually enthralled by time based / video works but three videos caught my eye at the APT. I watched Nguyen Minh Phuoc (Vietnam) and Tromarama’s (Indonesia) videos twice. Nguyen has filmed an older woman in an army uniform performing tai chi with two red fans, whose frilled edges move like large red poppies in the wind. Behind her are projected images of everyday life in Vietnam. The choice of colour (red) and the use of the uniform brought up questions of political control / authority while the tai chi brought grace and calm to the screen. Tromarama have produced two short films that humorously  comment on the rise of consumer culture in Indonesia. In Happy Hour the faces on banknotes sing a cheery pop song about a recent bank scandal.


Nguyen Minh Phuoc

Nguyen Minh Phuoc
Erbossyn Meldibekov & Nurbossyn Oris  (Kazakhstan) have been included in the exhibition within an exhibition : 0 – Now: Traversing West Asia. In a series of photographs they explore the role of iconic buildings and statues in holiday photographs, and the human need to have their photo taken in front of these icons. Who hasn’t has their photo taken with the Sydney Opera House, Eiffel Tower, or Statue of Liberty? Family album (detail) 2011 consists of pairs of photographs taken in the same place at different times, linking the personal experience of a holiday with wider social and political events. Many of these original photographs were taken in front of Soviet monuments which no longer survive. It was fascinating to see how statues have been replaced or just removed in the later images.
Erbossyn Meldibekov and Nurbossyn Oris

Erbossyn Meldibekov and Nurbossyn Oris

Takahiro Iwasaki’s (Japan) Reflection Model (Perfect Bliss) (2010–12) took my breath away with its fine detail and craftsmanship. And that was even before I realised this delicate hanging model included its own inbuilt reflection. Reflection model (Perfect bliss) 2010–12 is a scale model of Byodo-in, a famous Buddhist temple located near Kyoto. Floating gently in a darkened gallery space, the temple exuded grace and calm.
There is much to see at this year’s APT. Like many of these large survey shows there is possibly too much to take in, in just one visit. The works are varied and many of them are intriguing.  The accompanying catalogue too is a thing of joy. It includes ten essays as well as interviews with several of the artists, and beautifully reproduced images of the artworks on display.

Takahiro Iwasaki
Elizabeth Little has a B. Art Theory (Hons)and M Art Admin, COFA UNSW. She lives and works in Sydney.

All images supplied by the writer.
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