TAASA Review Issues

September 2019

Vol: 28 Issue: 3
Chinese Australian Artists
Editor: Jackie Menzies

Cover Image
MISSING #1, 2012, Dadang Christanto (B. 1957, Central Java), Aluminium, hand etching, 60 x 35 x 19cm. Image courtesy of Gallery Smith. Photo: Matthew Stanton. See pp 10-11 of this issue.

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Editorial

This issue presents an overview of the growing profile and contribution of Chinese-Australian artists to our cultural life. Chinese-Australian artists have diverse backgrounds, practices and interests; some are second or earlier generation Australians, others are more newly arrived. The 2016 Census found that of the more than 2.1 million people of Chinese ancestry in Australia, 41% were born in China (with more than half arriving after 2008), 25% in Australia, 8% in Malaysia and 6.5% in Hong Kong. There are no details of what percentage of these people are involved in the arts, but the increasing numbers of Chinese and Chinese/Australian artists participating in group and single exhibitions at institutions and commercial galleries reflect a lively art scene. Apart from visual artists, increasingly noticeable are Chinese musicians, actors and singers such as opera singer Shu-Cheen Yu about whom there is an article in this issue.

In his fulsome book review of The Tao (p. 26), Stephen Fitzgerald comments that the stimulating cultural interplay between China and Australia that we are now witnessing reflects and illustrates the changing culture and ethnicity of Australia. One significant contributor to such cultural exchanges has been Jocelyn Chey, as evident in her article on Huang Yongyu whom she was instrumental in bringing to Australia in 1981. Similarly, the much-loved late Edmund Capon, whose obituary appears in this issue, was a passionate Sinophile and magnanimous participant in promoting Chinese culture in Australia. Philanthropist, collector and Gallery Trustee Jason Yeap, in conversation with Mae Anna Pang, discusses collecting and supporting contemporary Chinese artists, reminding us of the importance of collectors and benefactors.

The diversity and extent of participation in the Australian art scene by Chinese-Australian artists is reflected across various articles. Mabel Lee in her article on Zhou Xiaoping describes the unique imagery of Aboriginal Australians he has created. Lynne Howarth-Gladston and Paul Gladston discuss Xiao Lu, a leading performance artist and painter, who exhibited at 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art. The plight of the LBC (‘Left Behind Children’) in rural China is documented through the collaged photographic images of Tami Xiang that were exhibited in the Head On Photo Festival in Sydney last May.

The most recent group exhibition of Chinese-Australian artists will be the upcoming Between Two Worlds at Newcastle Art Gallery, curated by Catherine Croll and comprising work by Australian-born, diaspora and mainland Chinese artists. Some artists are bi-cultural, including some of mixed Chinese and Australian indigenous heritage; others acknowledge more diversity, such as Dadang Christanto who was born into an Indonesian family of Chinese descent or Jason Phu who considers himself Chinese/Vietnamese/Australian. The recognition of multiple ethnicities and cultures is part of a ‘de-othering’ practice now prevalent in contemporary practice. Other current issues of transcultural dialogues, migration, displacement, cultural identity, discrimination and mainstream acceptance also appear in the work of many of these contemporary artists.

Chinese people have been a crucial component of Australian settler society since its beginning. The first recorded Chinese migrant in Australia arrived from Guangdong in 1818, followed by Chinese indentured labour and from the 1850s Chinese migrants to the goldfields. Post the goldfields, Chinese cabinet makers were substantial contributors to the colonial furniture market as explored by Peter Gibson in his article. While many were trained in Guangdong, and after arrival in Australia employed time-honoured Chinese practices to make Chinese-style furniture, economic realities forced them to produce European-style furniture in response to orders from major retailers. While wider documentation of early Chinese-made furniture in Australia awaits further research, so too does the contribution of earlier Chinese-Australian painters, such as the watercolour miniaturist Justine Kong Sing who is the subject of Denise Mimmocchi’s article.

The work of select contemporary designers and cabinetmakers is reviewed by Ann Toy. In her article Toy considers the work of Melbourne-based design studio Broached Commissions and Adelaide-based Khai Liew, whose timeless design vocabulary acknowledges the influence of his Straits Chinese heritage.

There is a growing acknowledgement of the contribution of Chinese to multi-cultural Australia, as reflected in recent institutional, government and individual initiatives. For example, Ann Toy, a contributor and advisor to this issue, advises that the Chinese Australian Historical Society, along with other Chinese Australian community-based organisations, is working with the State Library of New South Wales to extend their already valuable holdings of Chinese-Australian material. In addition, plans are afoot for a Museum of Chinese in Australia (MOCA) to be situated in Sydney’s Haymarket. This issue of the TAASA Review is one such acknowledgement.

Table of contents

3  EDITORIAL: Chinese-Australian Artists – Jackie Menzies, Guest Editor

4  DISSONANT NARRATIVES – Jackie Menzies

7  ARTIST ZHOU XIAOPING’S ENGAGEMENT WITH ABORIGINAL AUSTRALIA – Mabel Lee

10  BETWEEN TWO WORLDS AT NEWCASTLE ART GALLERY – Catherine Croll

12  CHINESE AUSTRALIAN FURNITURE MAKERS, 1870–1930 – Peter Gibson

14  EXPLORING CHINESE AUSTRALIAN IDENTITY THROUGH CONTEMPORARY DESIGN – Ann Toy

16  PEASANTOGRAPHY: FAMILY PORTRAIT AT THE HEAD ON PHOTO FESTIVAL – Tami Xiang

18  HUANG YONGYU, SOME PERSONAL REMINISCENCES – Jocelyn Chey

20  JASON YEAP, ART COLLECTOR AND PHILANTHROPIST: IN CONVERSATION – Mae Anna Pang

21  SOMETHING ABOUT SHU-CHEEN YU, SINGER AND TEACHER – Adrian Li Donni

22  XIAO LU: DIS-/CONTINUING TRADITION – Lynne Howarth-Gladston and Paul Gladston

23  IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN: JUSTINE KONG SING IN THE AGNSW – Denise Mimmocchi

24  EDMUND CAPON, AM, OBE (11 June 1940 – 13 March 2019) – Jackie Menzies 

26  BOOK REVIEW: THE TAO: CONVERSATIONS ON CHINESE ART IN AUSTRALIA – Stephen Fitzgerald

27  RECENT TAASA ACTIVITIES

29  TAASA MEMBERS’ DIARY: SEPTEMBER – NOVEMBER 2019

30  WHAT’S ON: SEPTEMBER – NOVEMBER 2019

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