2017 is the second year of Western Sydney University’s Australia-China Institute for Arts and Culture. Thanks to the support of various parties, the year has witnessed significant achievements.
To mark the occasion, the Vice-Chancellor Professor Barney Glover launched the Institute’s newly commissioned artwork together with the noted local artist, Jason Wing. Named “He Rong” (和融), this artwork features six canoes, two Tasmanian Aboriginal bark canoes and four Chinese lotus canoes, against the background of black silk.
Watercraft were the main mode of transport between both countries for a significant length of time. Chinese naval explores arguably were one of the first cultures to explore Australia before hundreds of years before the British invasion during 1788. There have been many carbon-dated Chinese artefacts to support this historical exchange and interaction.
The four Asian canoes travelling up the wall are based on the lotus leaf. Lotus leaves are very symbolic in Chinese culture. Lotus plants have always existed both in Australia and China. The lotus plant has a beautiful flower which grows in mud. This is symbolic for the cultural struggles which Chinese people have endured with migration to Australia. The lotus leave canoes are gold which refers to the gold mining boom in Australia during the 1800s. Gold mining was responsible for one of the first major Chinese migrations to Australia.
AG Public Art worked with Jason to manufacture and install the work onsite.
The work Canoes focuses on the many cultural exchanges between China and Australia.
A strong bond between Chinese and Aboriginal people
The two canoes travelling down the wall are paperbark canoes, this represents the Aboriginal interaction and exchange with Chinese people. Historically there has been a very strong bond between Chinese and Aboriginal people, due to both being socially outcast of the time, living in isolated areas due to gold mining, pearl farming and abalone farming, agriculture and many more. The paperbark canoes will also be painted gold for constancy and to symbolise the similarities of both ancient and traditional cultures.
The black or red silk draped down the wall represents a Chinese scroll and water. China is famous for its silk and was often traded around the world. the Silk will gently move and create the illusion of water flowing.