Nearly one year ago Sydney based artists Sarah Contos, Tully Arnot and Jensen Tjhung embarked on 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art’s inaugural Beijing Studio Program. The program was hosted at the studios of Chinese-Australian artist Shen Shaomin in the Huairou district of Beijing. This is a rare pocket of dense green forest set against a sector of the Great Wall, and referred to as the “oxygen bar” of the hazy Chinese metropolis. The exhibition, Haze is a selection of works produced by each of the trio in response to their stay.
Arnot’s rope-light sculpture Cold Beer, Cold Women glows on and off in the front room like neon city signage, dusty and clouded with urban haze. Upstairs, Contos’ 2013 Ming Vases for Little Horse (everything that moves, breaks) is a 23-piece collection of plaster-coated ornaments. Vases and vessels have been built from the artists’ signature mishmash of found materials (plastic takeaway containers, paper lanterns and netball bags) and embellished with tiny ceramic smiley-face beads and tassels. In Contos’ cultural appropriation, traditional vase shapes are rough and hard to make out in a fog of modernisation.
In his installation New God/False God, Tjhung sees public art cloaked in its political, social and environmental context. Zombie-like mannequins gaze toward a grimy, tiled centerpiece impaled with heavy, draped black flags. Rather than being merely lost in translation, each of the artists in Haze has boldly pinpointed and responded to individual moments of clouded obscurity from within their own personal experience.