By Vita Forest
Detail of Square, 2014 by Zhang Dali
Yesterday Lucy and I “hopped” (geddit?) on a train and went to explore the White Rabbit Gallery in Chippendale. It is a private gallery specializing in 21st Century Chinese art, and its owner, Judith Neilson, generously opens its doors to the public for free.
The current exhibition is called PARADI$E BITCH and explores ideas of spirituality, enlightenment and the afterlife with issues of culture clash – East meets West and traditional meets high tech, old versus new.
Which way is up? Eternity, 2014 by Xu Zhen
When you first enter the light-filled entrance atrium, you are confronted by Eternity, 2014 by Xu Zhen, where replicas of Ancient Greek statues, are topped by replicas of classical Buddhas. So, reclining draped figures that could be the Three Graces, are “reflected” upwards into vertical columns of a stylized serene Buddhas. Both types of statues are missing limbs and heads but are completed by their opposite, they are joined at the neck as if the other is their head, where their thoughts reside. Which side is up? How can one balance on the other? As you can see, it is rich in metaphor.
Detail of Eternity, 2014 by Xu Zhen
The exhibition continues over three more floors in a wide range of media – neon signs, animation, drawing, sculpture, photography and installations. One of our favourites was Cage, 2006 – 2011 by Li Hui, a small dark room that you entered via a sliding door that was closed behind you. When your eyes adjusted to the darkness you became aware of “cages” mapped out with wire-thin green lasers. The effect was so startling that we found ourselves stepping over the lasers as they gave the illusion of solid lines. They were not real but they looked real. Lucy amused herself by squeezing through the “bars” of the prison on her belly, trying to move from inside to out without being caught in the laser’s beam.
Outside this area was Square, 2014 by Zhang Dali, an art work created to mark the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Pigeons alight on a collection of life-size ghostly figures, modeled on members of China’s rural poor who come to Beijing to search for work. There are no pigeons in Tiananmen Square and these people don’t exist officially, so gallery-goers walk amongst ghosts. It was a combination of unsettling eeriness and dreamy peacefulness.
Square, 2014 by Zhang Dali
We also liked the slowly spinning paper sculptures by Mia Liu entitled Guggen’ Dizzy, 2013, which were made from painted tickets from the Guggenheim museum. The designs slowly changed as you watched, inviting you to slow down and reflect on this modern-day mandala made of disposable materials.
Guggen’ Dizzy, 2013 by Mia Liu
Afterwards, we sat beneath the gently swaying birdcage installation in the Tea House, listening to the soft clink of the cages above us. Lucy slurped on a large foggy glass of lychee iced tea with real lychees bumping around at its base (she used chopsticks to remove the soft balls of white fruit once she finished drinking). I had a white tea with the tightly wrapped tea leaves slowing unfurling inside the glass tea pot to reveal a scarlet Amaranth blossom in their centre. I nearly applauded!
A highly recommended outing. And do stop for tea.