Around the galleries – September 2009

September 7, 2009 § Leave a comment

Published: The Age, A2, September 5, 2009.

Around the galleries Dan Rule

liu xiao xian

WHAT Liu Xiao Xian: From East to West
WHERE RMIT Gallery, 344 Swanston Street, city, 9925 1717,

The spectre of politics, race, religion, history and place permeate Liu Xiao Xian’s multidisciplinary works. The photo-media, sculptural and video pieces that comprise From East to West, the first major survey of the Chinese-Australian artist’s diverse practice, visit Mao, Buddha, Christ and a swathe cultural iconography. But while it sounds loaded, Xiao Xian’s work takes a far more personal, investigatory and playfully comparative route than you might imagine. In My Other Lives, Xiao Xian superimposes his face onto historical Australian stereoscope portraits, while The Way We Eat features porcelain casts of a vast collection of ornate Western serving and eating implements set adjacent to a solitary pair of chopsticks. His towering digital work Reincarnation – Mao, Buddha and I (above) and new photographic and video installation The Great Wall of China prove incisive reflections on post Cultural Revolution China. Mon to Fri 11am–5pm, Sat noon–5pm, until September 12.


WHAT Johanna Billing: Tiny Movements
WHERE Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, 111 Sturt Street, Southbank, 9697 9999,

Tiny Movements is a wonderfully succinct title for Swedish artist Johanna Billing’s first Australian solo exhibition. Her slow, contemplative films and video works fill you in on the seemingly indiscriminate details without ever fully revealing subject or narrative. Much of her work tends toward ordinary group or social situations. In twin-video piece Project for a Revolution (2000, above), a room full of young people sit silently, apparently waiting on something to occur. We’re drawn toward expressions, twitches, sighs – any potential trigger or cue. In  Where She Is At (2001), a young woman climbs to the top of lakeside a diving tower, only to wait at the top for what seems like an eternity – the sounds and sights of summer unfurling around her – occasionally peering over the edge to consider the jump. Billing allows us space and time to conjure our own narratives and scenarios, to consider the interplay of expectation and tension, passivity and anxiety. The innocuous middle ground between actions becomes the starting place for possibility. Tues to Fri 10am–5pm, Sat to Sun 11am–6pm, until September 27.


WHAT Slow Art Collective: TS2
WHERE Incinerator Arts Complex, 180 Holmes Road, Moonee Ponds, 8325 1750,

This fascinating project takes the notion of ‘slow’, or ecologically responsible art practice to a wonderfully realised end. Occupying the main gallery at Incinerator Arts Complex as a studio for three weeks, Melbourne’s Slow Art Collective (Tony Adams, Chaco Kato, Ash Keating and Dylan Martorell) are in the midst of creating a indoor landscape and ecology using only recycled and reclaimed materials from Moonee Ponds Transfer Station, directly next door. The interactive installation will grow and change throughout the collective’s three week residency, culminating in a launch event this afternoon from 2pm–4pm. At the time of going to print, a mountainous landscape blanketed by intricate weave of broken down computer parts, cords, wires and a volcanic ooze of melted down plastic filled almost half the space. Wed to Sun 11am–4pm, until September 11.


WHAT Kathy Temin 1989–2009
WHERE Heide Museum of Modern Art, 7 Templestowe Road, Bulleen, 9850 1500,

Perhaps one of the more resonant aspects of this major, two-decade survey of the work Melbourne abstract artist Kathy Temin is her engagement with and understanding of the potency of materials. Temin’s awkward, boxy and purposefully ad-hoc MDF constructions seem an outward affront to the modernist symmetry, while her 90s Problem works, which draw on the cheap, synthetic furs and stuffing used in soft toys, are evocative on a myriad of levels. Her recent works, such as My Monument: White Forest – overtaking a whole room of gallery with an immersive felted forest – are perhaps her most striking. Temin is also currently exhibiting at Anna Schwartz Gallery. Tues to Fri 10am–5pm, Sat to Sun noon–5pm, $12 (adult) $10 (senior) $8 (concession) until November 8.


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