Ren Hang, 2015, archival ink jet print, 40 x 27 cm. Courtesy the artist.
Ren Hang, 2015, archival ink jet print, 40 x 27 cm. Courtesy the artist.


Bathurst Regional Art Gallery (BRAG)

27 November 2015 until 24 January 2016

Coinciding with the 2015 Bicentenary celebrations of the colonial settlement of Bathurst, From Old Ground commemorates the Central West region’s early Chinese migrant history.

Inviting four Australian and Chinese artists, Jason Phu, Louise Zhang, Ren Hang and Jess Bradford, to respond to traces of Chinese migration in and around Bathurst in the mid-to late 19th Century, From Old Ground gives space to the little-known histories of Chinese communities in regional NSW.

Producing specially commissioned work spanning ink painting, installation, video and photography, each of the artists engages with the fragmented narratives and silent monuments of this important chapter in Bathurst’s social, cultural and economic history.

Sydney/Chongqing-based artist Jason Phu revisits the complex and contested saga of Sam Poo, remembered as ‘Australia’s only Chinese bushranger’ on the 150th anniversary of his death. Phu’s 10.5 metre long ink panorama pieces together imaginings of the life and death of Sam Poo, including pivotal events such as his passage to NSW and alleged crime and trial, interspersed with the mundaneness of goldrush life and Google-translations of newspaper reports from the time. The work’s deliberate inaccuracies and inconsistencies highlight the gaps in knowledge surrounding Sam Poo’s conviction and the question marks that still remain.

Sydney-based artist Louise Zhang revisits the landscape of Golden Gully, located between Hill End and Tambaroora, where Chinese alluvial gold miners were particularly successful around the 1850s. Once a centre of social and economic activity, the landscape now lies dormant, with only subtle traces of Chinese miners’ circular shafts-silent monuments to the site’s past life.

Zhang recasts Golden Gully’s distinctive natural and human-made rock formations and orifices in acrylic paint, foam, plaster, polyurethane and resin. The fragments that result are presented as quasi-geological specimens, frozen in time yet bursting with the energy of a bygone era.

In nearby Sofala, where the Chinese population once outnumbered Europeans, paste-ups by Beijing-based photographer Ren Hang re-insert Chinese bodies into the landscape. The raw portraits of anonymous youths in provocative poses are indiscreet reminders of the region’s past life and possible futures.

In a new video work, Sydney-based artist Jess Bradford contemplates the fortunes and futures of Bathurst’s Chinese sojourners, revealing messages from packets of fortune cookies.

Curator Joanna Bayndrian says: “This is a timely opportunity to uncover the lesser-known stories of a formative period in Australia’s history. These newly commissioned works focus on the remnant narratives of Chinese migration in the Central West. Collectively they actively shift the memory of the region’s Chinese heritage from the sideline, to the centre of public imagination. Importantly, From Old Ground acknowledges the historical depth of the cultural diversity that we celebrate today.”

From Old Ground is funded by Museums & Galleries of NSW’s Curatorial Support Initiative in partnership with 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney. The project will be on exhibition from 27 November 2015 until 24 January 2016.

OPENING: Friday 27 November, 6pm
FLOOR TALK: Friday 27 November, 5pm
EXHIBITION DATES: 27 November 2015 until 24 January 2016
MEDIA ENQUIRIES: Hannah Skrzynski | | (+61) 412 825 586