Orientalism

Featuring the work Shopping bags with Rangoli designs.
Group exhibition curated by Renai Grace, Blindside Gallery, Melbourne, Victoria, 2005.

Hand-cut signwriter’s vinyl and readymade plastic mesh bags. Site specific work, dimensions variable.

Shopping bags with Rangoli designs was created for the 2002 Khoj International Artist Residency in Mysore India.

The work was recreated for exhibition in Orientalism at Blindside Gallery in 2005 and subsequently shown within San Bao Zhi at First draft in Sydney and in Recast at Cowwarr Art Space in 2008.

Works detail

Photography by Silversalt Photography.

Artist Statement

This artwork was created during my first visit to India; I was overwhelmed with so many new experiences. Everywhere I looked were vivid colours, tantalizing smells and wonderful handcrafts. The selection of shopping bags as materials for a resulting artwork expressed my desire to touch, see, buy and consume with gusto!

I chose to continue my experiments into Chinese paper-cutting techniques when referencing the local mark making tradition of Rangoli – a pouring of pigment, flour or flowers into intricate patterns on the earth. The plastic mesh bags were hanging in a profusion of vibrant coloured bundles in the market.  Their clear strong colour seemed perfect as a ground for my explorations of traditional Rangoli patterns. Once completed and exhibited at the Khoj International Artists workshop in Mysore, the bags were presented as gifts to other participating artists and dispersed across India and the globe.

I recreated the work in 2005 for exhibition in Australia. This time the adhesive paper Rangoli designs were cut from sign writer’s adhesive vinyl, the original colours carefully matched. Such a use of western industrial material has added another layer to a work that references traditional practices and is infused with an energy which comes from direct experience.

Excerpt from exhibition essay by Kirsten Matthews

For many years Australian artists have traveled to, studied and lived in Asia. Asian culture, in its rich diversity, has provided inspiration from a philosophical, political, social and aesthetic perspective. The notion of presenting a small token – from Mandy Ridley’s residency and exhibition in India – seemed like a humble and low key way to think about this exhibition. The seven contemporary Australian artists represented in Orientalism each have completely different responses to everything from Japanese costume designs, printmaking and storytelling to Southern Indian rangoli designs.

Where the word orientalism conjures images of a bygone era – a time when artifacts shipped from the exotic Orient found their way into studios of curious and culturally attuned artists – this exhibition actually embodies the opposite. It is not about the physical travels to Asia and the idea of bringing something entirely new back home. Our capacity to absorb information and images of other cultures in a world of global exchange renders obsolete a lot of those symbolic ideas of what might be Oriental. The works in this exhibition are in a sense tokens of engagement with other artists, with ideas, styles and processes of Eastern culture.

To view the full essay, please visit the following link: 'Orientalism – a small token', by Kirsten Matthews.

Process: development & fabrication