TAASA Review Issues

June 2006

Vol: 15 Issue: 2
Guest Editor: Sabrina Snow

Cover Image
The Godess Gunga, the River Ganges. India (Kalighat Style, Calcutta), 19th Century. Watercolour and charcoal on paper. THE GODDESS GUNGA, THE RIVER GANGES, 44.0 X 27.5 CM. Collection National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Purchased 1961. See article pp 4 – 5 this issue

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Editorial

Welcome to the June 2006 issue of TAASA Review. I am assisting Sandra Forbes as acting editor for this edition, while she travels overseas: however all credit must go to Sandra for masterminding and compiling the Review contents. Sandra deserves special recognition and thanks for her professionalism and the long hours and hard work she continuously and freely devotes to producing TAASA Review.

Although this issue of the Review is a general issue, much of its subject matter fits comfortably between the last issue, which focused on Tantra, and the theme of a major exhibition and Asian art lecture series this year at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, that of the Goddess. The major exhibition Goddess: Divine Energy, which opens in Sydney in October 2006, surveys the innumerable, imaginative expressions of the divine female found in the art of India, Tibet and Nepal.

Our cover image this issue features Gunga, Goddess of the Ganges, reproduced from an album of Kalighat paintings which once belonged to the collection of Ronald and Catherine Berndt, and was bequeathed in1994 to the University of Western Australia. (TAASA Review September 2003). Recent research into this bequest, discussed by Kate Brittlebank in her opening article, has provided intriguing insights into the vagaries of collecting and distributing popular Indian art in Australia, and the curious variations in styles of local artists working in the same idioms.

Anne Kirker tells us about ten valuable lithographs, this time from the ‘War of Resistance’ in Vietnam, which have recently been acquired by the Queensland Art Gallery. These lithographs are art historically significant : their strong folk art flavour reflects the artistic origins of this Vietnamese ‘war art’ as rooted in local traditions ; such works also fill a gap existing hitherto between Western and local imagery of the war; and, significantly for the QAG, their emergence coincides with a British Museum policy to collect North Vietnamese war paintings – on show there in 2002.

Gods and goddesses in India are seen not only to control the pattern of human fate, but they are also viewed as living personalities. Vimala Sarma’s article on Kathakali costume shows how identification with the personalities of the gods is enacted through role playing, costume and dance – the personification of divine virtue and vice.

Spiritual traditions played out through creative endeavour are not limited to painting, dance and performance. There is an uncanny link between Javanese beliefs that the act of printing batik motifs connects the maker with a higher consciousness, and aboriginal concepts of spiritual power conveyed through applied patterns and symbols – clearly expressed in Joanna Barkmann’s interpretation of the batik printing philosophy at Ernabella. Gill Green too, in her exploration of the garment making ingenuity of the peoples of Siberia, the Arctic and Alaska, reveals how the the natural and cosmological worlds are united through a complex creative symbolism incorporated into their clothing making traditions.

In another angle on matters otherworldly, TAASA is fortunate to be able to publish a further article by Ken Parry regarding new archaeological research on early Christian communities in Quanzhou, southern China (the earlier article was featured in TAASA Review June 2003 )

‘Goddesses’ of the 20th century also feature in this Review. Frank Bren takes us on a captivating journey through the career of the leading star of early Chinese cinema in the 1930s, Ruan Lingyu. Indeed, her movie “Goddess’ may show at the AGNSW to coincide with the exhibition, and not only “Goddess’ but Ruan’s other famous film, ‘Love and Duty’ will definitely be screening at the 2006 Melbourne Film Festival. All this presages a huge upsurge of interest in this topic: the QAG will present an extensive film programme focused on 1930s Shanghai and Hong Kong in March 2007. Another leading lady, this time in the Sydney Asian art scene, Gene Sherman, stars in this Review in an interview with Melanie Eastburn. Gene discusses her background and how she came to develop the Sherman Galleries and launch so many talented Asian artists here.

The TAASA AGM was held at the Powerhouse Museum on 12 April, chaired by TAASA President Judith Rutherford. Susan Miller, Sandra Forbes and I, whose terms had expired, were re-elected to the Management Committee. Judith informed the meeting that TAASA would like to broaden the scope of its general membership, expand its areas of interest, and increase national representation. Feedback from TAASA’s recent questionnaire has been welcomed and will be acted on: further suggestions can be posted on the TAASA website, www. taasa.org.au

Table of contents

3 EDITORIAL: THE INSPIRATION OF THE GODDESS – Sabrina Snow (Acting Editor)

4 UNEXPECTED CONNECTIONS: AN AUSTRALIAN KALIGHAT ALBUM REUNITED – Kate Brittlebank

6 TWENTY YEARS OF SHERMAN GALLERIES – Melanie Eastburn

8 CHARACTERISATION IN KATHAKALI – Vimala Sarma

10 CONTEMPORARY TEXTILE ART SPEAKING TO THE ANCIENT TRADITION OF BATIK – Joanna Barrkmann

12 AN UNUSUAL CHRISTIAN ARTEFACT FROM SOUTH CHINA – Ken Parry

14 FROM GUTS TO GARMENTS: CLOTHING OF THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLES OF THE NORTH PACIFIC RIM – Gill Green

16 CLOSER ENCOUNTERS WITH RUAN LINGYU – Frank Bren

18 EXHIBITION PREVIEW: ART AS A TRANSIT VISA – George Alexander

20 IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN: VIETNAMESE RESISTANCE LITHOGRAPHS – Anne Kirker

22 COLLECTOR’S CHOICE: DISCOVERING TAIWANESE FURNITURE – By Susan Miller

23 TAASA MEMBERS’ DIARY JUNE – SEPTEMBER 2006

24 BOOK REVIEW: OLD CHINA – Natalie Seiz

25 TAASA ACTIVITIES – REPORTS

26 WHAT’S ON IN AUSTRALIA: JUNE–AUGUST 2006 – Compiled by Tina Burge

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