Tiffany Chung’s installation gleams seamlessly

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Tiffany Chung, Vietnam b.1969 | roaming with the dawn – snow drifts, rain falls, desert wind blows 2012 | 4000 glass animals | Purchased 2012. Queensland Art Gallery | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery | © The artist

Tiffany Chung, a highly regarded South-East Asian artist has developed an ambitious work, specially commissioned for the Gallery’s Collection. The installation features in ‘The 7th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’ (APT7) which closes Sunday 14 April.

Born in Vietnam, artist Tiffany Chung spent much of her youth in California, where she completed postgraduate studies before returning to her native country in 2000. Having rarely returned after migrating to the United States with her family, she experienced a curiosity for her motherland — in particular, regarding the thriving pop culture emanating from Asia — while many Asians were still looking to the West for inspiration (1).  Her early photographs and video works address economic and social development in Vietnam, her personal experiences of moving to the United States, and the influence of North American culture in Vietnam. Her recent installations and map works diverge from these themes, using the style and attributes of Pop abstraction and neo-Pop. Environmental change and imagined futures are explored through the tactility and repetition of consumer culture, providing her installations with a toy-like materiality.

Powerful in scale and enchanting in detail, roaming with the dawn – snow drifts, rain falls, desert wind blows 2012 consists of around 4000 glass animals on a 10-metre-long riverine plinth. Allegorically rendering an image of collective migration, it evokes the great forces that exist in the natural world. From golf ball-sized rabbits, cats and turtles to jaguars, rhinoceros, giraffes and elephants, the work features a menagerie of randomly grouped animals, displaying the diversity of the animal kingdom. Their transparency maintains a ghost-like lightness. Created in collaboration with a glassblower in Chung’s home town of Ho Chi Minh City, each animal is individually handmade, employing a craft that is ancient but now also largely used to make souvenirs for tourists. The sheer numbers of animals, their fragility, and their shiny, synthetic surfaces, provide an ethereal vision of an apocalyptic future. Balancing the natural and the surreal, the work recalls ideas of movement, and environmental and social change.

This installation is the second work by Tiffany Chung to enter the Gallery’s Collection. across the sea of dust and fluttering dragonflies 2008 has similar imagery of a migrating flock of animals. The artist has also worked closely with the gallery to develop this concept into an interactive project for Kids’ APT7, titled one day the bird flies across the sea.

1. Steven Pettifor. ‘Living in limbo’, Asian Art News, vol.14, no.6, Nov–Dec 2004, pp.62–3.