Exhibition Notes by Paul Lyndon / NIshi Gallery / February - March 2016
Far South? Of whose north one wonders. Surely it’s a question Chun intends us to consider, unless, that is, he intends no more than a folksy display of skill. Certainly “South” may be taken as a reference to Bermagui and the Coast, where the artist lives and practices, but just as certainly Chun is concerned with expressing far more than a cardinal point. That his list of subjects - a wistful child, an artworld luminary in his last days, pumice stones, a corella and a near whited-out landscape (among others) - resist a logical through-line, I think, offers a clue.
In Chun’s work playfulness and seriousness conjoin in a universe of mid-tonal ambiguities. Here, the inauspicious pumice stone forms a landscape, confounding the perception of scale, upending notions of value and furthermore discombobulating our sense of gravity: pumice is the stone that floats. Which way is up, in this universe, north or south, and who should decide?
Beneath the playful and the unabashedly beautiful elements of Chun’s work (beauty is still not quite back in fashion), lies an engagement with concerns of power and oppression. Chun’s fascination with small things (stones, birds, the child, bluebottles) may be read, in this context, as a celebration of life as we find it, in the human scale, on a beach, as a personal experience.
Far South is a world of bio and cultural diversity. Thus the dignity invested in the human subject is also in the corella, who returns our critical eye with unflinching assuredness. Accordingly, landscapes are not testaments of dominion but personal expressions of place. In Chun’s visual democracy the personal and playful comprehensively take precedence over the large and depersonalising. The juggernauts of corporatism, militarism and jingoistic nationalism are of some antithetical far north.
Chun’s distance from such forces recently became evident in the media storm ensuing from his criticism of Australia Day. The ensuing hate mail in volumes of thousands, continuing deaths threats and two vandalism attacks on Chun’s Bermagui studio/gallery have failed to halt his practice. The work exhibited in Far South may, then, be read as a quiet response.
Far South, wherever it may be, is apparently a place of reflection and rejuvenation.
Paul Lyndon is a Sydney-based art writer.