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Out of Quarantine – 2016

Manly Art Gallery and Museum, Sydney
5 December 2015 to 19 June 2016

Out of Quarantine – 2016

Out of Quarantine was an exhibition exploring the ideas of quarantine, migration and place. This project was presented by Manly Art Gallery and Museum, in partnership with Q Station Sydney Harbour National Park Manly. Out of Quarantine was curated by Katherine Roberts in collaboration with Rebecca Anderson and Julie Regalado.

I have maintained a long-term interest in Chinese culture since travelling to China in 1987. When I visited Sydney’s North Head Quarantine Station, the Chinese characters incised into and painted onto sandstone outcrops that surrounded the Station’s historic buildings, intrigued me. These graffiti-like inscriptions described experiences of being interned in a foreign land because of infectious disease on the ships that carried Chinese passengers far from the Republic of China.

The functional vessel, and its association with food, has been of significant interest to me as an artist working in the field of Ceramics. Amongst the Quarantine Station’s heritage collection were vessels used for the preparation of food during periods of the Station’s 156 years of operation. Many containers in the collection were white enamel pots and pans, mostly used for the preparation of food for the non-Asian interned. The Chinese cooked and ate separately, as segregation from the non-Asian quarantined was an established social and cultural norm during the Station’s history.

Artwork created for the Out of Quarantine exhibition combined these two points of interest. Ceramic containers, produced during an artist residency in Jingdezhen, China, were transported to Sydney from China. They acted as metaphors for cultural difference, separation and transmigration. They also conveyed narratives, in the form of weeping Chinese characters, transcribed from the weathered sandstone at the North Head Quarantine Station. The stories were poignant reminders of hardship, loss and estrangement experienced by early Chinese visitors and migrants to Australia’s shores.

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