‘Idling Engines’: An immersive sound installation


What is music? A composition of sounds made by instruments or voices? Brisbane artist Ross Manning hopes to broaden the definition by introducing young visitors to ‘a sonic experience that is different to what they might have been taught is music’. His immersive sound installation, ‘Idling Engines’, comprises a series of suspended, low-voltage motors that are weighted off-centre to create vibrations. Everyday objects attached to the motors’ cables are then activated by these vibrations, creating an unexpected soundscape. As visitors will learn, walking through the space triggers the activation of the motors. Of his intentions for the work, Manning has said:

I want the piece to be realised by this journey through the physical space of the gallery. Each sound is quite subtle and detailed, so as you are walking through, your personal experience of the composition changes, your movement through the work realises a unique interpretation that’s slightly different for everyone.

‘Ross Manning: Idling Engines’ filmed at the Gallery of Modern Art Children’s Art Centre (GOMA)

‘Ross Manning: Idling Engines’ features the sound work ‘Idling Engines’ 2020, Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Brisbane / Courtesy: The artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane / © Ross Manning / Photograph: J Ruckli © QAGOMA
‘Ross Manning: Idling Engines’ features the dynamic artwork ‘Elements Song’ 2020, Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Brisbane / Courtesy: The artist and Milani Gallery, Brisbane / © Ross Manning / Photograph: N Harth © QAGOMA

Manning hopes that this experience sparks curiosity in children, adding that he hopes ‘they are engaged with finding out where the sounds come from and why it’s doing what it’s doing’ — the work will have ‘an interactive element where your body and your presence shapes the sound’.

I think it’s really important for children or young people to experience contemporary art and to be engaged by the conversations and the ideas that contemporary art puts forward. I think it’s a really healthy thing for young people to get interested in.

Having long been intrigued by how things work, Manning took an early interest in science and physics, and later, in sound and technology. He had a previous career as an audiovisual technician, repairing televisions and data projectors — a role in which ‘those two strands from my history came together and inform what I do now, which is working with technology, installation, light work, kinetic work and sound’. Manning has a genuine love for presenting the ordinary objects of everyday life in unexpected ways. He enjoys using what is readily available, such as paper cups and tin cans, to connect the audience with the work and see these objects in a new light.

I don’t have a set way of working, sometimes it is an experience or something that I want to build on or that draws my attention and I want to investigate it . . . regularly, it’s based on the object or the medium that I’m working with.

‘Idling Engines’ is a convergence of ideas. It’s a subtle nod to ‘The Motorcycle: Design, Art, Desire’, but it also builds on other experiences. Manning recalls memories of catching the old-style buses on which you could open the windows, and the ‘kind of composition or music the bus played while idling at a traffic light — you get a certain pitch and the bus would vibrate and the windows would vibrate, then they’d drop a gear and start taking off and it would change again’. The project is also an extension of a live performance that Manning developed as part of a residency at the Kyoto Art Centre in 2019. A new interpretation of this performance, in which he clips different objects onto microphone cables to create a layering of textual sounds, was filmed at Milani Gallery in Brisbane and will be displayed as part of this project.

Ross Manning performing Idling Engines 2020 at Milani Gallery, Brisbane / Photographs: C Callistemon © QAGOMA

Another component featured in the installation is the artwork Elements Song 2020, which is a ground-based sound installation. In this work, Manning visualises the components of technology by exploring ‘the precious metals that go together to make a circuit board that’s inside your phone’. He was interested in ‘the raw geological form of the rocks pitted against the more refined form or distilled form of the elements found in the rock, reflected by the tin cans and the little motors that sit on top.’ This conjuncture of materials brings to mind their journey from ‘the processing, all the energy, the production, the social and environmental parameters of what goes into the making of common technologies’. As the cans orbit the rocks, they each make a different sound depending on its size or shape, ‘so it’s sort of resonating the object, the can, and giving it a voice’.

Ross Manning has a masterful way of orchestrating the unexpected musical potential of ordinary materials, which promises to delight both children and adults.

Laura Mudge is Senior Program Officer, Children’s Art Centre, QAGOMA. She spoke with Ross Manning in August 2020.

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‘Idling Engines’ was at the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA) from 28 November 2020 until 26 April 2021.


Ben Quilty: Family portrait


We spoke with Ben Quilty and his two children, Joe and Olivia, about inspiring young people to begin their own art practice and to continue making art forever. During school holidays, Quilty loves having his children around the studio. ‘I like them to be in there with me’, he says. ‘We make paintings together, and inevitably I make paintings about them. Sometimes they are really annoying and sometimes they’re really lovely; sometimes they give me kisses and sometimes they yell at me. I like to make paintings about the kissing and the yelling.’1

Ben Quilty in his studio with Joe and Olivia / Photograph: J Virag

Quilty’s studio, in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, is a large and inviting warehouse space with a paint-splattered concrete floor. Completed canvases line the walls, and his palette, a large trolley table he’s been using for 20 years, is caked with layers and freshly squeezed oil paint in a rainbow of colours. He wears old boots and overalls when painting, and it is the ordinary quality of his materials that he hopes will inspire children to begin making art.

‘The objects and materials that I use to make paintings aren’t special. They’re just paint and an old table with wheels on it, and I think it’s really important that kids see what my materials and objects are that enable me to make paintings’, Quilty says. ‘I think every house should have a big palette in it somewhere for children to paint and make drawings and continue their own art practice.’

Watch our time-lapse of Joe Quilty painting Ben

When Joe painted his father’s portrait, he began by outlining the face and marking out the placement of the features, ‘A portrait should not only capture someone’s physical likeness but also express who they are and what they feel’ using lines to map the structure of the body and its relationship to the surrounding environment. The colour, shape and style of each line expresses his ideas about the subject. Quilty has painted many portraits of Joe since he was a baby, often working from photographs when Joe was too young to maintain a pose. Both father and son agree that the experience is most meaningful when you can sit down with a person and talk to them — a portrait should not only capture someone’s physical likeness but also express who they are and what they feel.

In creating his self-portraits, Quilty sometimes works from photographs when he is trying to achieve a particular pose, but more often he studies his face in the mirror and spends a long time looking at his reflection. ‘I started to think, “How weird am I?” . . . human beings are really weird’, he says. This feeling of weirdness has inspired a series of playful self-portraits that exaggerate key features of his face, such as using a sausage from his local butcher as a model for a long, winding nose. As part of the project ‘Family Portrait’, Qulty also encourages children to experiment with colour and abstraction to create a digital portrait they can share with friends and family.

Explore portraiture with Ben Quilty

It is when talking about why Quilty thinks it is important for children to be involved in art from a young age that he is most visibly passionate about his own practice inspiring others to find lifelong joy in creating art. ‘All children draw’, he says, ‘but it seems that when you get to about 12 or 14 or 16 there is this expectation that you will stop. I reckon you should keep drawing forever. If all the adults drew, they would be much, much cooler . . . So I hope that children walk away from the Gallery being inspired to keep making.’

Laura Mudge is Senior Program Officer, Children’s Art Centre, QAGOMA

1 All quotes are from interviews with the artist and his children, 22 January 2019.

The importance of drawing

Featured image detail: Ben Quilty in his studio with Joe / Photograph: Jeremy Virag

‘Ben Quilty: Family Portrait’ was at the Children’s Art Centre, Gallery of Modern Art, from 15 June until 20 October 2019. ‘Quilty’ was on from 29 June until 13 October 2019.

Purple Reign


Gary Carsley’s recital Purple Reign is part of his ongoing series, ‘Selections from The Collection of The Museum of UnNatural History’. Through his enigmatic avatar, ‘Dorian Gary’, Carsley investigates the multiple readings and histories of R Godfrey Rivers’ Under the Jacaranda 1903 in the Gallery’s Collection.

Carsley also worked with QAGOMA to develop ‘Purple Reign’, a ‘secret garden’ bursting with the iconic purple blooms of the jacaranda tree inspired by Under the jacaranda 1903.

Watch the recital

SUBSCRIBE to QAGOMA YouTube to go behind-the-scenes at events and exhibitions / Performed at the Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane on Sunday 25 November 2018 during the opening weekend of ‘The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT9)

R. Godfrey Rivers, England/Australia 1858-1925 / Under the jacaranda 1903 / Oil on canvas / Purchased 1903 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery
R. Godfrey Rivers, England/Australia 1858-1925 / Under the jacaranda 1903 / Oil on canvas / Purchased 1903 / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

Related: Jacarandas bloom in Purple Reign

Carsley is an artist, curator and educator whose hybrid approach combines the handmade and readymade by using drawing, painting and photography to create sites where different narratives collide. Since 2002, Carsley’s practice has diversified to include complex spatial environments depicting public gardens and buildings. These elaborately fabricated scenes are researched and selected on the basis that, historically, they were designed to reconstruct views from distant homelands.1 By combining vistas from different locations, his garden scenes symbolise the way European culture has propagated itself in new settings.

Mimicry is central to Carsley’s practice and to the subject matter in his signature ‘draguerreotypes’. The term is a convergence of daguerreotypes — the early photographic method — and drag — embodying or performing another identity — and reflects his process of remaking photographs of parks and gardens using a palette of wood and stone textures. Applied as a substrate to walls and furniture, these meticulously crafted images recall intarsia, an ancient technique that uses different shapes and species of wood to create mosaic-like pictures. These optically mesmerising environments are designed to both materialise and dematerialise objects, and to challenge our perception of what is real and what is fabricated. Carsley routinely transforms IKEA flat-pack furniture using landscape scenery to camouflage their ubiquitous forms against corresponding background images. These vignettes entice viewers to activate spatialised paintings by stepping inside a cupboard or taking a seat at a table. Like the landscape, the artist is also present, but in disguise, with his lip-synching mouth often overlaid onto statues and inanimate objects.

In ‘Purple Reign’ 2018, commissioned for APT9 Kids, Carsley employs his lip-synching technique to animate the jacaranda tree. This surreal secret garden immerses the viewer in a violet monochrome landscape overpopulated by jacarandas. At the heart of the garden is R Godfrey Rivers’s painting Under the jacaranda 1903 from the Queensland Art Gallery Collection. This iconic painting, set within the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens, reputedly depicts the first jacaranda grown in Australia. As hinted by Carsley in his title, the jacaranda’s presence and influence has spread far since the first tree was planted in Australia in 1864.2 This once exotic species, originating from South America, has become naturalised, annually carpeting Australia’s eastern coastline in a lilac tide that starts in Queensland in late spring and spreads south into early summer.3 Often mistaken for an Australian native, the jacaranda has not only taken root in our soil, but in our hearts and minds, making its way into art and poetry and festival celebrations.

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Installation views of ‘Purple Reign’ / Photographs: Chloe Callistemon © QAGOMA

The arboreal wonderland of ‘Purple Reign’ is composited from photographs of jacaranda trees from gardens throughout the colonised world. Projections are animated by interactive touchscreens that invite children to align the shapes of extinct animal species, so that the pattern covering the animals’ bodies disappears into the background foliage. These animals are among the many species that have vanished from their habitats, hinting not only at the shared colonial past of these nations, but also at the effects of imperial expansion symbolised by the now pervasive jacaranda. Viewers can re-enact and perform the scene from Under the jacaranda in a stage-like tableau or ‘photogenia’ positioned directly opposite the painting. By taking their picture and posting it online, visitors partake in a new kind of propagation, acknowledging and reshaping this conflicted history.

Related: Under the jacaranda

Gary Carsley’s work invites the viewer in and provides an opportunity to consider our common past — and, by making us active participants, it also encourages us to look to the future.

Laura Mudge is Senior Program Officer, Children’s Art Centre, QAGOMA

1 Zara Stanhope, Perfect for every occasion: photography today [exhibition catalogue], Heide Museum of Modern Art, Bulleen, Vic., 2007, p.142.
2 Jessica Hinchliffe, ‘Why Brisbane, not Grafton, is the original jacaranda capital of Australia’, ABC Radio Brisbane, 31 October 2017, <http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-31/why-brisbane-not-grafton-is-the-jacarandacapital/9103110>, viewed July 2018.
3 Helen Curran, ‘The dream tree: Jacaranda, Sydney icon’, Sydney Living Museums, <https://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/stories/dream-treejacaranda-sydney-icon>, viewed July 2018.

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APT9 has been assisted by our Founding Supporter Queensland Government and Principal Partner the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body, and the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, an initiative of the Australian, State and Territory Governments.

‘Purple Reign’ has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.

Feature image: Gary Carsley’s recital Purple Reign

#GaryCarsley #APT9 #QAGOMA

A boat to carry your dreams


Ali’s Boat brings the powerful and imaginative drawings of Sadik Kwaish Alfraji to a new audience. The children’s book is a poetic story full of dreams and adventure, but also tempered by melancholy. Inspired by a special letter from his young nephew, Ali, the story is also a deeply personal reflection on the artist’s impressions of his childhood in Iraq.

Ali’s original letter to Sadik, 2009

Sadik Kwaish Alfraji is a storyteller — his powerful artworks reflect on his experiences and that of his family. They speak of loss, displacement and the vulnerability of human existence. Born in Baghdad in 1960, Alfraji now lives and works in Amersfoort, the Netherlands. In 2009, when returning to Iraq after 20 years, he met his 11-year-old nephew Ali for the first time. Ali gave him a letter and asked him to open it when he returned home. Inside, Alfraji found a drawing of a small canoe‑like boat and the words, ‘I wish my letter takes me to you’.

For Alfraji, this was no ordinary letter; it delivered a clear image of Ali’s dream ‘to be carried over the clouds, to new places and adventures where he can play and run freely, chasing his own golden wishes’.1 It also resonated with Alfraji on a deeper level — he recognised the boat as though it was drawn from his own dreams. As a young man, he dreamed of a boat that he could take to flee the suffering of his country; as an adult he dreams of a boat that can carry him back to the Iraq of his childhood.

A drawing form Ali’s Boat, published by the Children’s Art Centre for APT9

Ali’s letter, and the dreams held within, inspired Alfraji’s series Ali’s Boat 2014–15, comprised of charcoal drawings, large-scale paintings, artist diary sketches and stop-motion video animation. Created using Indian ink, charcoal, graphite pencil, and black-andwhite prints, these works merge the plight of Ali, and his desire to escape the horrors of Iraq, with Afraji’s experience as an exile, unable to return home. Alfraji uses a naive playful style that is both an interpretation of Ali’s drawing and a nostalgic reference to his own childhood, in which he recalls the playgrounds that spread between the thresholds of his house up to the vast horizons.2

Alfraji has collaborated with the Children’s Art Centre for APT9 to adapt his artwork Ali’s Boat 1 2014 into a storybook. The original work, held in the collection of the British Museum, features 100 striking illustrations with Arabic text. Translated into English, Alfraji’s words read as a conversation not only between him and his young nephew, but also with his younger self. The 48‑page storybook Ali’s Boat brings together a selection of Alfraji’s beautiful drawings and poetic text to tell a story full of dreams and adventure, yet also tempered by melancholy. ‘Entering a new world can be filled with unexpected dangers and deep disappointments’, Alfraji says. ‘In that sense our adventure is similar to the game of “snakes and ladders”; the path to the finish is not straight and is fraught with the unexpected.’3 At one point in the story he advises Ali: ‘Don’t look at the snakes. Take only the ladders’ — a wonderful metaphor for life.4

In conjunction with the children’s publication, Alfraji has worked with the Children’s Art Centre to develop an interactive project for APT9 Kids titled ‘A Boat to Carry Your Dreams’, in which you are invited to write or draw your own wish on a piece of paper and fold into a boat. His video animation Ali’s Boat 2015 is also displayed in the space. Alfraji’s video projection for APT9, Once Upon a Time… Hadiqat Al Umma 2017, draws on his Iraqi upbringing and takes its inspiration from the small public gardens in Baghdad’s lively Bab Al-Sharqi area. The artist used to visit the area with his father, spending hours marvelling at the flora, fountains and public artworks. Although much of the gardens have fallen into disrepair since the First Gulf War in 1990–91, they ‘continue to represent a gateway to the artist’s imagination where he can envisage all sorts of magical undertakings’.5

Ali’s Boat is a deeply personal reflection on Alfraji’s impressions of his childhood in Iraq, and where Ali is now. It also connects to our shared desire to live in peace and security, and to the human capacity to dream. Alfraji hopes that, by reading Ali’s Boat, children will keep dreaming and realise that we must all have a goal and work to achieve it.6

Laura Mudge is Senior Program Officer, Children’s Art Centre, QAGOMA

1 The artist quoted in Nat Muller (ed.), Sadik Kwaish Alfraji, Schilt Publishing, Amsterdam, 2015, p.154.
2 The artist quoted in Muller, p.156.
3 The artist quoted in Muller, p.154.
4 Sadik Kwaish Alfraji, Ali’s Boat, Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2018, [unpaginated].
5 José Da Silva, ‘Sadik Kwaish Alfraji’, The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art [exhibition catalogue], Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2018, p.33.
6 Email from the artist, 24 August 2018

Ali’s Boat is supported by the Tim Fairfax Family Foundation


Me, Myselfie and I, the art of self-portraiture


In the age of the selfie, self-portraiture continues to be a meaningful form of artistic expression. For hundreds of years, artists have created self-portraits as an intimate form of self affirmation, as a public statement about their identity, to showcase their skill, or to shape the way they are perceived. Such images are often self-conscious by nature, with the artist’s gaze directed at their own reflection, and subsequently reflected back to the viewer. But what defines a self-portrait? Is the desire to capture our own likeness limited to representing the physical self? After all, what we look like is not who we are.

‘My approach is very personal. You might even say that every work to date has been a self-portrait, in that what inspires each work is my own day-to-day experience of living in Australia’1
Gordon Bennett

Gordon Bennett

Self-portraiture was a recurring preoccupation for artist Gordon Bennett, whose work continually seeks to scrutinise representation, perception and the construction of identity. Bennett was unaware of his own Aboriginality until the age of 11; after taking up painting in his early thirties, art gave him the means to deconstruct his experience of social conditioning as a ‘white Australian’,and to challenge racial stereotypes. For a series of self-portraits completed in 2003–04, Bennett used a variety of visual effects to fracture and obscure his likeness, creating multiple selves that emphasise the ambiguous and transitory nature of identity.

Gordon Bennett, Australia 1955-2014 / Self portrait #2 2003 / UV inkjet print on photographic paper / Purchased 2005. The Queensland Government’s special Centenary Fund / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © The Estate of Gordon Bennett
Gordon Bennett / Self portrait #7 2003 / UV inkjet print on photographic paper / 54 x 54cm (comp.) / Purchased 2005. The Queensland Government’s special Centenary Fund / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © The Estate of Gordon Bennett
Gordon Bennett / Self portrait #8 2003 / UV inkjet print on photographic paper / 54 x 54cm (comp.) / Purchased 2005. The Queensland Government’s special Centenary Fund / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © The Estate of Gordon Bennett
Installation view of ‘Me, Myselfie and I’ at the Children’s Art Centre / Photograph: C Callistermon © QAGOMA
Installation view of ‘Me, Myselfie and I’ at the Children’s Art Centre / Photograph: B Wagner © QAGOMA

Takahiko Iimura

Digital technologies have enabled artists to push self-expression further through the myriad possibilities offered by photography and the moving image. Video in particular has broadened the scope for artists to explore self-representation not only visually, but also through sound. Takahiko Iimura has been at the forefront of experimental filmmaking since the 1960s and has focused on creating noncommercial personal cinema, using the self as his starting point.3 In AIUEONN Six Features 1994, he combines the comical and the absurd, exploring the incoherent relationship between the vowel sounds and characters of the Japanese and Roman alphabets. Iimura distorts his face into exaggerated shapes while he enunciates each vowel sound on camera, interrogating the relationship between words, sounds and images.

Takahiko Iimura, Japan/United States b.1937 / Performance: AIUEONN Six Features 1994 / Videotape: 8 minutes, colour, stereo / The James C. Sourris AM Collection. Purchased 1999 with funds from James C. Sourris through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Takahiko Iimura

Phil Dadson

Phil Dadson’s video work Resonance 2 1995 looks at the shifting perception between what we hear and what we see. Dadson uses song-stones, bell poles and body percussion to reflect the sounds of a remote part of New Zealand. This soundscape is overlaid with his voice recounting stories and sound memories from his past. Onscreen the movement of his body creates the soundscape, and he alternates between monochrome silhouette and colour footage to reveal the specific objects used. Resonance 2 also gives voice to that which is unseen, and the way in which our experiences, memories and history shape who we are.

Phil Dadson, New Zealand b.1946 / Resonance 2 1995 / U-matic exhibition quality videotape: 24:30 minutes, colour, stereo / Purchased 1997. J. Woodford Trust / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Phil Dadson
Phil Dadson’s Resonance 2 installed at the Children’s Art Centre / Photograph: Chloe Callistermon © QAGOMA

Miloš Tomić

Miloš Tomić is fascinated by our daily experiences and the collective sounds we create in our everyday interactions, such as flicking a light switch on and off. Musical diary #1 2012 features Tomić and his young son (along with other children) creating various repeated sounds using both instruments and everyday household items. The improvised sounds have been layered to create an exuberant musical cacophony. The video also captures the unscripted interactions between Tomić and his son, who obviously delights in this playful experimentation and anarchic break from their normal routine, discovering together the world of sound and music that we make in our daily lives.

Milos Tomic, Serbia b.1976 / Musical diary #1 2012 / Digital video: 3:37 minutes, colour, sound / Purchased 2014 with funds from Gina Fairfax through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art / © Milos Tomic
Miloš Tomić’s My Pocket Orchestra installed at the Children’s Art Centre / Photograph: C Callistermon © QAGOMA

Laura Mudge is Senior Program Officer, Children’s Art Centre, QAGOMA

1 Gabriella Coslovich, ‘Bennett puts on a brave face’, Age, 28 April, 2004.
2 Zara Stanhope, Response and Riposte in the Art of Gordon Bennett and Peter Robinson [exhibition catalogue], Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane, 2005, unpaginated.
3 Julian Ross, ‘Takahiko Iimura’, in Midnight Eye: Visions of Japanese Cinema, 30 September 2010, http://www.midnighteye.com/interviews/takahiko-iimura/, viewed September 2017.

‘Me, Myselfie and I’ / 9 December 2018 – 22 April 2019, Children’s Art Centre, Gallery of Modern Art

Featured image: Installation view of Takahiko Iimura’s Performance: AIUEONN Six Features 1994, ‘Me, Myselfie and I’ GOMA 2018 / Photograph: C Callistermon © QAGOMA

Kate Beynon’s Friendly Beasts


Working in collaboration with contemporary artists, the Children’s Art Centre creates new and unique artworks and projects for the young, and young at heart to engage with artist’s ideas and ways of working. A key part of achieving great outcomes is in the design. For Kate Beynon’s ‘Friendly Beasts’ we wanted to create immersive spaces that invoke a sense of playfulness, encourage creativity and mindfulness.

Kate Beynon was born in Hong Kong in 1970 and moved to Australia in 1974 and has recently completed her PhD at Monash University, exploring the presence of creatures — including mythical beasts and hybrid human figures — in contemporary art and how they relate to theories of cultural identity. Her work is informed by multiple visual traditions including Western and Eastern comic books, animation, film, graffiti, calligraphy and fashion, and her rich artistic practice and beautiful watercolours provided fertile inspiration for us throughout the creative process of bringing to life the ‘Friendly Beasts’ exhibition.

Watercolour concepts by Kate Beynon / © The artist

Once you enter the space you meet the ‘beasts’ in life-size form. Adapted from the artist’s Dance of the Spirits and Apotropaic Vessels series, each character has special attributes and different personalities. Mysterious Blue Shaman is a healer through music, magic charms and dance; mischievous, energetic Lotus Monkey encourages joy and play; grinning Tu-Dao Dog is a friendly and loyal companion; and snaky-haired Gorgon Girl stops bullies in their tracks by turning them to stone.

You also can connect with the characters by touching the hand shaped sensors which change colour from rainbow to the creatures colour. Sounds representative of the creatures traits emanate from their illuminated bodies that are displayed against a soft background of watercolour blobs adapted from Beynon’s artwork.

Pass through an illuminated Moon Gate that incorporates details inspired by traditional Chinese lanterns that carry symbolic meaning in Chinese culture and reflect a common topic of Beynon’s work — hybrid identity. The use of contemporary materials such as Ampelite Fibreglass sheeting and LED lighting to achieve a subtle illumination in different colours symbolises a connection between tradition and the contemporary.

The activity ‘Beast Remix’ uses templates based on Beynon’s works so you can create a new hybrid creature of your own imagining. For this space we incorporated a selection of masks made by children during trials into the wallpaper so that their inventions could provide a source of inspiration for others. Once your mask is completed, pass through another Moon Gate that leads you to the dancing zone where you can dance with the beasts in the artist’s three channel video installation, Visions from a Ghost Tale / Friendly Beasts.

Beynon also wanted to have a quiet space that encouraged children to sit down and engage in a relaxing and meditative activity. The Lotus Garden is an oasis featuring a collaborative drawing activity that invites you to use coloured pencils and organic-shaped stencils to create a landscape in which your beast might live. Kwan Yin, the Goddess of mercy, compassion and kindness in Chinese culture looks over the space with a dramatic large-scale reproduction of the artist’s representation of Kwan Yin in the Lotus Field and an animation of her many armed-figure on display.

Installation photographs: Natasha Harth © QAGOMA

Lotus flower lights designed and made by Sachie Muramatsu especially for our exhibition are suspended above the drawing table, while a custom designed carpet of a lotus pond and garden complete the space. These gentle and contemplative colours, as well as ambient sound envelopes the space and creates a multisensory experience.

Laura Mudge is Senior Program Officer, Children’s Art Centre
Kasia Jarosz is former Exhibition Designer, QAGOMA

Friendly Beasts’ was the ninth in a series of large-scale interactive projects developed in collaboration with the Children’s Art Centre and contemporary Australian artists.