‘WHITE RABBITS!’ In accordance with old superstition, those who utter the words ‘white rabbits!’ on the first day of each month shall reap good fortune and luck for the duration of the month ahead. Surely there is not a better day in the calendar to remember this childhood amusement than the 1st of April, not only because it marks a final farewell to the dregs of winter but also because we excitedly welcome in the daffodil strewn, bunny hopping season that is Spring!
You might not expect to find any actual white rabbits in a 1940’s Rolls Royce service depot in central Sydney, Australia. What you will find however, is the White Rabbit gallery; our latest art-based offering. The gallery was opened in 2009 to showcase what has become one of the world’s most significant collections of Chinese contemporary art, specifically dedicated to works made in the 21st century. It is owned by the Director, Judith Neilson, who was inspired to establish it on a trip to Beijing. She was thrilled by the creative energy and technical quality of the works she saw and wanted to share them with people outside of China. She makes regular trips to China and Taiwan to augment the collection, which by early 2015 included 1400 works by more than 500 artists.
The White Rabbit Collection has recently opened its mesmerising new show – ‘Heavy Artillery’. Open until August 7th 2016, this visual indulgence sets itself apart with art of tremendous scale and proportion, not to mention an impressive list of mediums used. A metric ton of fake marble. Two tons of leather. Three tons of compressed paper. Five thousand porcelain leaves, 8,000 identical books, 130,000 minute photographs and 600,000 painted dots. In these artworks, mass and scale are as important as media. Gigantic statues of Mao erected in the 1960s still dominate town squares all over China, but for contemporary artists, monumentalism is a way to express new realities and new ideas. It reflects confidence and ambition, a sense of China’s rising power, and the desire to make a mark.
Most works in the new exhibition are new acquisitions and have never been shown in Australia. Some of the works included are:
• Library (2008), Polit-Sheer-Form Office's overwhelming archive of all blue books
• He Xiangyu’s Tank Project (2011-13), a replica of a Soviet-Chinese tank made entirely from hand-stitched leather
• Liu Wei’s monumental exploration of the pressures and stresses of urban life, Density 1–6 (2013)
• The Poetry of Michelangelo (2015), a video tribute to Michelangelo in which Geng Xue breathes life and soul into a lump of clay
• Hsu Yung-Hsu also wrestles with clay to patiently build massive bas-reliefs that seem to defy gravity
Also on show: works by Aaajiao (Xu Wenkai), Guo Jian, Liu Chuang, Liu Jianhua, Song Hongquan, Ah Leon, Lin Yen-Wei, Chou Chu-Wang.
Artists go big to grab the attention of fickle audiences and position themselves in a crowded marketplace. They also do it to convey large ideas, about life and death, technology and nature, change and eternity. In China they have an additional reason. Contemporary art is a Western import, and many Chinese artists name European and American masters as their greatest influences. Now, mixing what they have learned from the West with China’s classical culture and crazy commercial zeitgeist, the former students are taking contemporary art in bold new directions. Whether they enlist computers and teams of low-cost workers or rely on their own patient skill, they are making works as hefty as their nation’s profile, and as hard to ignore. Their creations may embrace, confront, intrigue or enthrall, but all are intended to stop viewers in their tracks.
Since the gallery can house only a fraction of the Collection at any one time, there are two new exhibitions a year, each involving a full rehang. For this reason, the gallery closes during installations, usually in February and August.
The White Rabbit gallery is a registered charitable institution funded solely by the philanthropic Neilson Foundation. Admission is free. If you do happen to be based on that side of the world, this is definitely worth putting on your to-do list, and even if you don’t happen to be based on that side of the world, take a look at the website at the very least - for visual excitement!
White Rabbit; www.whiterabbitcollection.org