The Unruly Art of Leo Tien

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30 Nov 2016 — 19 Mar 2017

A deceptively simple painting, titled Happy New Year Family, shows members of a Chinese family staring directly out of the frame — but upon closer inspection, the portrait is really an indictment of racist attitudes. On the left side of the canvas, there is a small bleeding heart and a list of racist names: “Japs, reffos, wops and woks”; and on the right side, “Pommies, Yankees, Irish and Jews.”  The picture on the surface is tranquil and pleasant but the prejudice either experienced or witnessed was painful enough to express in the painting.  It’s New Year, a time of fresh beginnings, but the pain of racism remains.

Such is the complex nature of Leo Tien’s art: a truly ‘unruly’ painter, Tien was not concerned with technical perfection but nonetheless powerful, poetic, comic and inventive.

Born and raised in China as a Catholic before WWII, Leo Tien became a priest and religious scholar and eventually moved to Australia.  In his late forties, he would leave the priesthood but not the church.  In his new life as a Chinese Australian immigrant, he moved to Melbourne’s Dandenong, where he married, lived and worked for fifteen years until he retired.

Through the deep power of his imagination, Tien was able to meld all these distinct identities into one creative voice in his painting.  His strength as an artist lies not in technical prowess, but the powerful and unique imagery that reflects his deepest feelings about life as a Chinese Australian immigrant and his personal spiritual exploration.

Modern Folk Art: Peasant Paintings by Shao Qihua

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7 Nov – 21 Dec (Part 1) | 9 Jan – 19 Feb (Part 2)

Jinshan Peasant Paintings, also known as “Farmer Painting”, began to attract international attention in the 1970s after artist Wu Tongzhang taught painting techniques to farmers in Jinshan – a district of Shanghai well-known for its agricultural products.

Peasant paintings have a unique cultural significance due to the status of its painters: older female farmers in rural China who did not receive a ‘formal’ art education, but were otherwise skilled in folk arts that had been passed down for generations including paper cutting, paper folding, embroidery, and weaving.

These modern folk artists depict an idealised rural life, and while their paintings appear almost childlike in style, this is deceptive. In fact, their strong graphic design, bold colour combinations and imaginative ideas are simple but sophisticated, justifying their nickname of ‘Chinese Picassos’.

Today Jinshan Peasant Painting has become a full-time occupation for many farmers and their work is being exhibited internationally. Despite the wide appeal of the artwork and their international recognition, some critics still view the paintings’ consistent theme of happiness as neither ‘real’ nor ‘serious’ art.

 

About the artist

All the artworks in this exhibition were painted by Shao Qihua. Shao was born in 1965 and is a famous Jinshan folk artist whose works have been exhibited internationally. She has won many awards and in 2006, was named Jinshan Peasant Painting Artist by the People’s Government of Jinshan District, Shanghai.

 Artworks available for sale – all proceeds benefit the Chinese Museum

Artworks are available to purchase for $200 (including GST) from curatorial staff from Wednesday to Friday at the museum. Payments can be made by card or cash. After the conclusion of the first part of the Modern Folk Art exhibition, artworks can be picked up on 21 and 22 Dec. If you have any questions, please contact the curatorial staff or call 61-410- 810-782 for further information.

 

Han Dynasty: Life Everlasting

 

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people ‧ ideas ‧ innovation

While the power of Roman Empire was rising in the West, the Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE) founded the Eastern civilisation in China through a period of cultural and technological development, economic wealth and territorial expansion. This brand new exhibition showcases this significant period of Chinese history through the Han dynasty’s remarkable people, progressive ideas, and great innovations.


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People

The exhibition shares stories about people of the Han dynasty, such as the invention of the earliest odometer by a Chinese engineer and when the Han Emperor accidentally gave away one of ancient China’s Four Great Beauties to a tribal chief. Visitors will be introduced to Zhang Qian, the great explorer who founded the Silk Road, and will learn about Confucius’ enduring philosophy.


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Ideas

Witness the establishment of Silk Road, the expansion of the Empire’s borders, and wonder at a world in miniature featuring pottery figurines and other objects from the superb private collection of Hank Ebes. Explore the Han Emperors’ approach to law and order, the notion of the Mandate of Heaven and the belief in life everlasting.


Innovation

The Han dynasty heralded the invention of the papermaking process, advanced metal-forging techniques and highly effective agricultural methods. The Han also invented the wheelbarrow, applied negative numbers to mathematical calculations, and created a device that detected earthquakes.


Images: Private collections of Hank Ebes

sponsored by little projects