It's a couple of weeks since I visited the seventh Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT7) in Brisbane. I'm not sure why I've delayed blogging about my visit. Laziness maybe? Or possibly the realisation that blogging now seems to be rather unfashionable and I'm no longer sure that what I'm writing about is interesting to others. But then, I've always seen my blog as a personal record as much as it is a communication with others. It's an aide memoire. I use it to remind me of experiences and responses that otherwise might drop from the edges of my unreliable memory.
The APT7 is a collection of works from 75 artists drawn from 27 different Asian and Pacific countries. If you live in Sydney I think you are naturally aware of Australia's Asian connection - through food, architecture, the appearance of people in the street. But whenever I visit Brisbane I am much more aware of our Pacific connection, which is somehow less evident in Sydney. The APT7 emphasised the art of the Pacific. The curators had the specific objective of revisiting the themes of the initial APT when Papua New Guinea featured extensively. I greatly enjoyed this focus of the exhibition. In my past - maybe the 1970s and early 1980s - New Guinea arts and artifacts seemed to be more common (fashionable?) than they are today. There were galleries exhibiting and selling such art and its aesthetic was appreciated and valued. So I was delighted to see some wonderful, exuberant structures and art works from Papua New Guinea, such as the enormous carved and decorated pillars and roof for a Sepik Haus Tamburan that you pass through to view other works
and I was fascinated by a very tactile and slightly menacing group of life-size figures from the Asmat Artists of West Papua - now part of Indonesia - though this work is a vivid reminder of its cultural links to Melanesia:
These works by Tongan / New Zealand artist Sopolemalama Filipe Tohi appealed to my love of thread and of textiles more generally. They build on the centrality of 'Lalava', or 'lashing' in Polynesian life - the way that the ubiquitous use of thread to lash together housing, rigging on boats, or furniture can become both decorative and part of the identity of a group or clan. These are particularly intricate lashing patterns, some made of knitting yarn
and this detailed three-dimensional work in a waxed flax-like thread:
There were wonderful modern works by indigenous Australians. I spent ages looking at these works by Wiradjuri artist Lorraine Connelly-Northy:
She has taken narbongs (string bags) traditionally made from string or other yarns and rendered them in giant form from the hard, metallic materials such as barbed wire, corrugated iron and baling wire that were introduced by white settlers:
Of course the APT7 doesn't limit its visitors' experiences to visual arts. More is always more. The day I visited there was a performance of traditional music from Iran (Persia) in a room exquisitely painted in elements of Farsi script by Parastou Forouhar. I'd managed to appropriate a folding stool (such a great idea!) that I carried with me through the exhibition and loved sitting, listening and being able to gaze at these patterns:
I'm somewhat surprised to find it's already three years since I last wrote about this great event at the Queensland Art Gallery. I'm already re-visiting experiences with my grand-daughter - building up traditions and customs that will become part of our history together. One of the many appealing things about this gallery is its constant provision for children. The APT7 was no exception. Many of the installations and works are innately appealing to children anyway. They're often colourful, and sometimes the scale is vast and you can walk through or around the works. But there are also interactive experiences for children. For example, the beautiful calligraphy of Parastou Forouhar became the basis for a computer game in which children could use the Farsi words to outline and define animal shapes which could then be animated and emailed to friends. A Japanese company, Paramodel, had covered the walls and ceiling of a room with model railway elements and provided boxes of pieces that children could use to construct their own patterns.
There was so much to see. Even though we spent hours at the gallery there were many artists whose work I missed. I enjoy the big blockbusters of famous European art we see from time to time in Australia, but an exhibition such as the APT is fresh, confronting, amusing, engaging, and tells us so much about our part of the world.