Double Take at the White Rabbit Gallery

I had the most fascinating visit to the White Rabbit Gallery yesterday.  This gallery in the Chippendale neighborhood of Sydney houses Chinese contemporary art from a private collection.  I found out that the current exhibition was closing this Sunday so I motivated myself to get over there.  I took a guided tour, and it was so informative and interesting that I recommended LW to do it this morning.  She loved it as much as I did.

Here are some of my favorites but I hesitate to actually single them out since I liked so much of what was shown at the gallery.  The title of the exhibition, “Double Take” was truly appropriate for the works showcased there.  Nothing was what it appeared to be; I really had to look closely and question what my eyes were taking in.

These two pieces by Shi Jindian were crocheted stitch by stitch, using stainless steel wires.  Our guide said that the blue sidecar motorcycle took him 3 years to complete (the piece is called “Blue”) and the artist’s hands were like a ballerina’s feet, all torn up and mangled from the wires.  Now he has 8 assistants but it still took 18 months to finish the black and white car.

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“Seven Sparrows” by Liu Zhuoquan.  During the “Four Pests Campaign,” the artist’s father refused to kill the birds and was tortured in return.  This piece was in remembrance of him and what he endured.  I had never heard of the Four Pests Campaign, and how eliminating sparrows backfired and brought on severe famine in China during the Cultural Revolution.  It was quite moving; our tour guide was visibly upset while sharing with us some of the conversations she had with the artist about this piece.

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I found Liu’s work with glass bottle paintings, light, and shadow quiet and beautiful.  I can’t begin to imagine the amount of patience and skill it takes to paint inside a bottle using a bent bamboo brush.  It’s called neihua, one has to paint in reverse so that it looks “normal” when you look at it from the “outside.”

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Speaking of light and shadows, I enjoyed this piece by Cong Lingqi.  210 miniatures of everyday household objects were handmade by the artist.  She then suspended them from the ceiling with a beam of light shining on them.  The piece is called “Dust,” where the light casts a shadow on the wall showing new shapes.

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I LOVED this painting by Zhang Chun Hong entitled “Life Strands.”  It was done using charcoal and graphite on paper, but it looked so real that at first I thought it was a photo.  The artist said, “long hair is associated with life force, sexual energy, growth, and identity.”  The black and white represent yin and yang, the opposing elements that we see here, are literally braided together.

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The next two pieces are by two different artists.  They are not at all what they appear to be.  The chair is actually made of ceramic, not wood, in the tradition of Chinese unglazed tea ware.  The Taiwanese artist, Ah Leon describes his works as “illusions in clay.”  The tree trunks and chains are made from a SINGLE log of hard wood by the artist Ye Sen.  Truly amazing.

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This chocolate shop is, upon closer inspection, not displaying any chocolate at all but in fact is a statement about the ongoing Chinese – Taiwanese conflict.

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This is the first piece I saw when I walked into the gallery.  It’s a stencil cutout of the aerial view of Beijing by Lu Xinjian entitled “City DNA Beijing.”  This work was inspired by Piet Mondrian and based on Google Earth satellite image.

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There were many more works of art by very talented Chinese artists but I’ll finish here.  I walked out of the gallery with a huge smile on my face and made a mental note to return in March when they reopen with a new exhibition.  I can hardly wait!

White Rabbit Gallery: 30 Balfour Street, Chippendale, NSW

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