In Possible Worlds

Works by Elly Kent, Claudia Nicholson and Tianli Zu feature in this impressive exhibition, the culmination of a year long, early career initiative.
In Possible Worlds

In Possible Worlds brings together the work of Elly Kent, Claudia Nicholson and Tianli Zu and forms the culmination of a year of curatorial guidance provided through an early career initiative at the 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney. These three artists were chosen to participate in this program by Aaron Seeto, Director of 4A and Lisa Havilah, CEO of Carriageworks, Sydney.

Claudia Nicholson is a very recent graduate, completing her studies at the College of Fine Art, Sydney, less than two years ago. Folklore, stories and myths feature extensively in Nicholson’s work. She is particularly interested in the stories surrounding pregnancy and childbirth, such as the stories told to young children about where babies come from and the sometimes fanciful myths created to explain the existence of illegitimate children.

In Dario and the myth of the pink dolphin, a young Columbian boy tells the tale of a mythical pink dolphin who preys on drunk women. In the video work Cabbage Patch Fib (work with Mercedes), the artist and her sister take turns eating their way through a whole, raw, red cabbage, questioning – or perhaps destroying – the popular childhood myth that babies come from the cabbage patch. Nicholson’s work is heavily informed by her personal experiences including her background: she was born in Columbia and adopted by Australian parents, growing up in Australia.

Nicholson makes humorous references to Columbian pop star Shakira in a series of watercolours called Silly Homeland. For example, the work titled Lucky these breasts are small and humble, so you don’t confuse them with mountains, borrows a line from one of Shakira’s hit songs and reflects upon Nicholson’s Columbian and Australian identities. Perhaps too, it comments upon the limited, strangely translated, picture of Columbia presented on the international stage.

In the video work You Can Choose Your Friends (Mum chews my steak for me) Nicholson and her mother sit at the table, Nicholson has just a glass of water and a place setting before her, her mother sits opposite eating her way through a ‘meat and three veg’ style meal. The sounds of cutlery clanking and her mother chewing are the only sounds in the video as the two sit there in silence creating an anxious and uncomfortable situation.

Tianli Zu’s work White Shadows, is a beautiful and moving installation of cut paper with the addition of multimedia elements. Shadows slowly move across the room: images of birdcages, fighter-planes and bombs dropping, what looks like dog excrement and a woman chopping wood are all cast on the walls and floor of the gallery. Through her use of cut paper in this way the work becomes composed, almost entirely, of an interplay between light and dark. The experience of viewing her work involves a contradiction between the soothing effects of the gentle movement of light and shadow and the unexpected imagery Zu chooses – such as the fighter-planes and bombs.

There is an interesting interaction between the traditional Chinese practice of paper-cutting and the new potentials for this practice when integrated with other media, such as animation and projections, to create something new. Paper-cutting holds a significant history in Chinese culture, also, more recently, paper-cutting and the shadow puppet have featured extensively in contemporary art from the Asia Pacific region.

Elly Kent is an artist and researcher from Canberra who has spent a great deal of time in Indonesia, including studying at the Indonesian Institute of Art in Yogyakarta. Her work in In Possible Works, draws on the traditional Indonesian practice of batik, where patterns are made on fabric through the application of hot wax and dyes. Kent, a printmaker, creates her works on paper through the use of stamps created from household utensils. Her works in the show feature an all-over, repetitive patterning, and are composed of thin strips of paper that have been sewn together and then stretched over window frames of different sizes and stacked together.

In Possible Worlds forms an impressive show of these early career artists. A number of the works in the show present a re-imagining of traditional practices, or, in Nicholson’s case, a challenging exploration of myths and stories.

Rating: 3 ½ stars out of 5


In Possible Worlds

Featuring works by Elly Kent, Claudia Nicholson and Tianli Zu

Centre 4A for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney

19 April - 8 June


Kathleen Linn

Wednesday 1 May, 2013

About the author

Kathleen Linn is a graduate of the University of Sydney and a museum worker who lives in Sydney.