no, no, not silk but skin / All these knots will outlive us (2021)
polypropylene red-white-blue black textile, staples on canvas
80cm x 92cm
I thank and pay my respects to the traditional owners and custodians of the land, the Ngunnawal/Ngambri people (ACT) where these works were made, in addition to the Gadigal people of Eora nation (Sydney), where these works are now being shown. Sovereignty was never ceded.
This is a series of works that draw on the history of Customs House as the gateway for British-Australia-Chinese maritime trade and immigration between 1845 to the 1990s, as a way to think about bodies in exile, the endurance of migrants and labourers on long journeys and the disciplinary powers of border security upon their arrival. The red-white-blue (or China Bags) was chosen as a modern material to refer to these circumstances of the past but to speak of it in the present, that is to say, these circumstances are an ongoing plight. This textile – made of a plastic known as polypropylene (PP) is easily available, light, cheap, durable, waterproof – have been adopted trans-geographically and trans-culturally beyond its origins in Hong Kong to become a globalised fabric embodying the migrant and working class. These works imagine this functional and symbolic material; as a tapestry of knots and terrains; doubly evoking the structure of sails of a junk ship; knots either marking down days or like hands gripping anxiously to another; awaiting impending border scrutiny.
Photo: Brenton McGeachie
Bryan Foong (he/him) is an artist of Chinese-Malaysian heritage currently living and working on unceded Ngunnawal and Ngambri Country. His queer practice brings together painting and writing as installations to examine body, biology and desire. Foong’s interest lies in situations where these subjects come into conflict with the processes of territorialisation and colonisation within contemporary biopolitics. In his installations, auto-fictional narratives – lifting tropes from science, psychoanalysis and other textual-mythic-cultural encounters – serve as allegories informing haptically sensitive paintings, potentially materialising an affectively heightened and spatialised account of the body turning against its somatic governance.
Foong is a graduate from the ANU School of Art and Design (BVA Honours, Painting) with a background in biology and clinical medicine, and continues to work in the health sector. Recent solo exhibitions include Tributary Projects (Kamberi/ACT) and ANCA Gallery (Kamberi/ACT). His work has been included in curated projects at a range of public galleries and ARIs, including Drill Hall Gallery (Kamberi/ACT), ANU (Kamberi/ACT), Tributary Projects (Kamberi/ACT), SNO (Bulanaming/Sydney), China Academy of Art (Hangzhou) and Blindside Gallery (Naarm/Melbourne, forthcoming). Foong’s work is held in private and public collections, including the Australian National University Art Collection.