As the trend for many years has been to discuss Western influences upon Asian artists, it was a refreshing change to finally explore the myriad influences Asia has presented to Australian artists. Oblique Shadows represented one avenue in this expansive map of cross cultural weavings. This complex theme was clearly defined in the exhibition's title which offered an equally compelling array of work by nine Australian artists. All of these artists are of mixed European heritage, yet bear strong testimony to an Asian presence in their work. How this influence was portrayed however, was as oblique as the show's title suggested.
The Asian context in this exhibition appears largely spiritual and philosophical, with stereotypes thankfully absent. The rhythms of meditative breathing manifested themselves in Jock Clutterbuck's towering wooden totems, Column's of My Breathing (2000). Adrian Mauriks' Paradiso (2000) forms take as their starting point, Tibetan Buddhism. From the understanding that life's energy is all around us in a myriad of natural forms, such as clouds, he creates a set of sensuous animal and plant forms using the most minimalist of materials, gleaming white fibreglass, to stunning ethereal effect. Likewise, Louise Paramor's paper work, Pink Fit (1998), is an eye-catching combination of decorative kitsch and religious fervour. Her larger-than-life recreations of religious paraphernalia evoke the numerous religious festivals of Asia and the ardent devotion not just to the religion, but the ephemeral nature of the festivals themselves.
Elizabeth Presa created an equally fascinating work in The Four Horizons of the Page (2000). This work evolved from being flat sheets of French text, taken from Jacques Derrida's Le Toucher, to delicate sculptures consisting of countless concertina folds. These were meticulously sewn into a lifesize Victorian dress and kimono coat, creating a fragile metaphor for the lost vestiges of colonialism and Japanese Imperialism, through the rising power of Asia and global homogeny in the 20th century.
The power struggles of East West, first world and third world, can also be witnessed in Greg Deftereos' Kiss or Compulsions Like Gravity (2000). Whether drawn together or repulsing each other, a harmonious equilibrium is created in the density of these bronze spheres.
Rachel Jacques, 2001
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