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The Tao: Conversations on Chinese Art in Australia

The Tao: Conversations on Chinese Art in Australia consists of a series of dialogues with important figures who have contributed to cross-border artistic encounters between China and Australia since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1972. It is a novel exploration of Chinese art in Australia told through the stories of real people.

The Tao includes interviews with: Ah Xian, Edmund Capon, Jocelyn Chey, Guan Wei, Nicholas Jose, Lin Chunyan, Liu Xiaoxian, Mae Anna Pang, Geoff Raby, Claire Roberts, Aaron Seeto, Shen Shaomin, Gene Sherman, Brian Wallace, Wang Zhiyuan, Xiao Lu and John Yu.

Book Review by Dr Stephen FitzGerald AO

This is an inspired idea, brilliantly realised. It is like visiting a salon, in which people connected by one thread, art, in the large fabric of the modern Australia-China story take turns telling their personal stories. They talk of creating and curating and facilitating art, of moving between the two countries for art, of alighting, moving on, returning. It’s like oral history, or seventeen small-scale oral histories spoken by large-scale individuals. And they all know each other, or have met, and often refer to each other in their stories, and that gives it this sense of a salon conversation.

Creator, moderator and editor Tianli Zu is herself a part of this world. A gifted contemporary artist and conversant in both Australian and Chinese cultures, she connects and directs the conversations as a historian, cajoling and coaxing her subjects into candidness, surfacing mood and aspiration and consummation, encouraging their humour.

Anchored in the subject of art, this is not an ‘art book’. It’s a book for the reader who finds interest and satisfaction in a good story, in this case a story of personal movement and colour and striving and friendship that has gone on underneath the superstructures of Australia-China relations, and the essential joy of an engaged life.

The Tao: Conversations on Chinese Art in Australia is unique in the literature of Australia and China. It is intellectually serious, but also playful; it is enquiring and informative, but also entertaining; and it is such fun to read.

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