Interchange: A Printmaking Dialogue between Australia and Thailand at the Mosman Art Gallery (Sydney) until 12 July 2015
I recently made a twelve hour journey all the way from my rural village of Koonorigan (inland from Byron Bay), to the Mosman Art Gallery in Sydney. This adventure by car, train, bus and foot was to see the exhibition Interchange: A Printmaking Dialogue between Australia and Thailand, an exhibition that I simply couldn’t miss.
This exhibition examines the printmaking history and relationships between Australia and Thailand. It features prominent artists from both countries who use a variety of traditional and contemporary printmaking techniques.
Twenty Australian artists are involved in Interchange, including ten from The Australian National University School of Art in Canberra and ten from The University of New South Wales Art & Design in Sydney. This selection of works by Australian printmakers explore political, social, historical and geographic themes.
Michael Kempson’s etching East and West may at first appear cute; with rows of soft, cuddly creatures looking wide-eyed at the viewer. Yet these little animals represent their nations of origin, symbolising global conflict and battles for power. The American eagle and Chinese panda are notable in their numbers and placement, while the Australian koala and New Zealand kiwi are two single animals in the bottom right corner, appearing rather minor in this play for global domination.
Rew Hank’s linocut Stop there’s no need to shoot the natives is an impressive work, and one that I highly recommend you see in person if possible. The scale of this work is the first aspect that confronts the viewer, measuring 75 x 100 cm. Within this large print is an amazing attention to detail and a highly skilled, subtle use of tone and line. The imagery is slowly revealed through close examination by the viewer. White, colonial settlers appear to land in Botany Bay, bringing along a host of foreign species including a pig, cat, fox and treasure chest of toads. This could imply that the settlers are also an introduced species. In the distance we see two kangaroos, and as the title pompously proclaims ‘Stop there’s no need to shoot the natives’, we may ponder their true intentions.
Ingeborg Hansen’s screenprint Statistics depicts rows of doll-like silhouettes in red and black. This may be a familiar image to many, as it adopts the info-graphic model that is often used to provide broad statistics about society. Yet Hansen’s work provokes us to question how reliable the data created and used by contemporary authorities really is. What’s more, could a graph ever truly convey the complexities of individual human experiences and lives?
The ten Thai artists who contributed to Interchange are predominantly from Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Their work responds to life experiences and cultural backgrounds, memories and imagination, as well as social, political and ecological matters.
Ammarin Kuntawong’s etching Bush Town is a dream-like image of his birthplace in Lanna. Within this detailed work are houses, trees, temples, mountains and pagodas that depict Kuntawong’s life and culture. The variety of tones and fine line work creates beautiful, flowing patterns across the image that deserve close examination.
Vimonmarn Khanthachavana uses woodblock, offset and stamping in her work Pincushion in hand. This bronze, black and white image has a luminous, metallic shine when viewed in person. Khanthachavana uses photographic imagery to convey her life experiences, pain and suffering. In Pincushion in hand, Khanthachavana uses her hands to represent her state of mind. In her left hand is a pincushion made from the artist’s hair, with each pin representing a year of her life. Khanthachavana’s right hand remains open, symbolising freedom from pain and suffering. This image gives the viewer an insight into a personal narrative that many people may relate to.
Wittamon Niwattichai used hard ground line drawing on cotton vintage handkerchiefs in her work Jasmine. Three young schoolgirls are shown at play, precariously balanced on top of one another. Depicted around them are objects of domestic life and floral patterns within the crotchet borders of the handkerchiefs. Niwattichai’s work describes her experience as an artist and housewife during the political conflicts and violence of mass demonstrations against the former Thai government in 2014. Here, she expresses feelings of vulnerability, uncertainty and insecurity, but also of feminine defiance.
Interchange is installed so that the works by Australian and Thai artists are intermingled, focusing on the work’s subject matter rather than their country of origin. Here, the works create a dialogue between each other; outback landscapes sit across from Lanna villages, an image of Tony Abbot with a young refugee girl is near a reversed map of Thailand, vessels float across dark water while in another image turtles scurry along a beach. Throughout Interchange we can observe how Australia and Thailand are connected, and what makes each country unique. Viewers are able to gain insight into Australian and Thai culture, creating new ties and understanding.
This exhibition was certainly well worth my long journey. I highly recommend you go and see it for yourself.
– Sara Khamkoed
Sara Khamkoed is an artist and writer based in The Northern Rivers. She is currently completing a Bachelor Degree in Visual Arts/Secondary Education with a second major in English at Southern Cross University.
Interchange: A Printmaking Dialogue between Australia and Thailand is at the Mosman Art Gallery, Corner Art Gallery Way and Myahgah Road, Mosman, NSW Australia until 12 July 2015. details http://mosmanartgallery.org.au/
Images of artworks courtesy of the Mosman Art Gallery and Michael Kempson