Red-volution by Red Dose – Hong Kong House, Sydney

Red Dose is an independent arts organisation recently formed to foster cross-pollination between Asian and Australian art communities. Their debut exhibition Red-Volution is taking place in association with the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office, within the historic Hong Kong House building in Sydney’s central business district. Red Dose Artistic Director Kathy Leung has used the significance of the colour red in Asian cultures as a curatorial springboard, drawing together artists working across themes of nature, family and spirituality.

Traditional Chinese aesthetics ran through the show, exemplified by the paper cutting works of Tianli Zu, whose installation Infinite Universe (2009-2013) dominated a wall of the exhibition. Although this work was indeed red, the colour acted as more of a symbolic thread through much of the work. Australian artists Keith Lane and Brett Bailey both drew on Asian imagery executed in surprising techniques – Lane’s painted plaster and fibreglass sculptures referencing the Chinese ceramic tradition, and Bailey’s paintings of familiar natural phenomenon (such as Dry Riverbed) bearing striking resemblance to Japanese ink on paper works, despite being painted on canvas. Likewise, Laurens Tan’s small-scale sculpture of a chair, The Depth of Ease (Lounge) 2007 used fibreglass and auto paint to produce a red glossy surface akin to lacquer ware.

However the works which resonated most strongly within the elaborate heritage interior of Hong Kong House were not necessarily the most traditional.  Douglas Cham’s ceramic sculptural series Banana-kids (2009) depict white crocodiles emerging from banana skins. Cham explains: “Banana-kids is the nickname given to ethnic Chinese, born and raised in Australia, by first-generation Chinese migrants. The term means ‘white’ inside and ‘yellow’ outside.” [Artist’s statement from exhibition catalogue.] These slightly menacing white creatures slithering out of their pop-art banana skin cloaks were intriguing in their boldness.


As well as the work of ten visual artists, the exhibition also includes three short films. While the exhibition itself is a rather diverse selection of work, the short film programme is quite strong. Each film explored the isolation of life within a busy metropolis, in very different ways. Pako Leung’s Still on the Bridge (2011) observed the quotidian of a widowed snack vendor, attempting to go about his business as his neighbourhood fades around him. In Case (2012) by Ivana Lai, follows a young man living with degenerating eyesight and a hoarding grandmother. Highly saturated colours (the duo live in an apartment dominated by green décor, including a green fridge) are accompanied by the man’s tape-recorded journals as he attempts to hoard his own memories of what will soon fade from his vision. The third short film in the exhibition, First Light (2013) by Lilian Fu, is a charming animation, whose protagonist loses her home amidst the relentless progress of a modern city. Her search to recover where she belongs is revealing and ultimately beautiful.


Still on the bridge (2011) – Pako Leung

Red Dose is an example of a new model for bringing contemporary art to wider audiences. It will be interesting to see its forthcoming projects as contemporary Asian art practice continues to be closely observed by audiences here and overseas.

Red-volution continues until 14 November 2013.
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