Grove - The Japan Foundation Gallery Sydney

9 - 30 September
Free admission: Monday to Friday 11 am - 4 pm
Japan Foundation Gallery, Level 1, Chifley Plaza
2 Chifley Square, Sydney, NSW 2000

Grove invites you to step directly out of the Sydney CBD shopping-mall food-court into a space of suspended disbelief. Playing with notions of internal and external spaces by bringing the outside within, Grove challenges perceptions and invites contemplation. This work reflects on the passage of time and sadness of loss, taking inspiration from the 10th Century fairytale, The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, the oldest surviving Japanese work of fiction. “… a folktale many Japanese are familiar with since childhood. In Grove, Fries has transformed the gallery into a whimsical forest that brings this fairytale alive.”*

The story tells of a kind, old, childless bamboo cutter who found a tiny baby girl in a shining stalk of bamboo. He and his wife raised her as their own and their lives were filled with joy as she grew into beautiful young woman. But she shunned her suitors and gradually became melancholic. Eventually the sight of the full moon overwhelmed her with sadness and she confessed that she was not of this world and would soon be compelled to return to her real home on the moon. She was very upset about leaving her adoptive parents, but despite her reluctance the moon people coerced her into donning a celestial feathered robe. Upon touching her shoulders, the feathers instantly severed all her human emotional attachments and freed her from the sorrows of the world. Thus she was transported away, up into the heavens on a shaft of moonlight. Her adoptive parents’ grief was insurmountable and, soon after, they both died of broken hearts.

Although the expected happily-ever-after fairytale ending is glaringly absent, this narrative does feature characteristics that are common to magical fables from around the world and across time. The key to accessing this enchanted other realm is found hidden within the everyday, something as inconspicuous and easily overlooked as a stem of bamboo in a bamboo forest, as light as a feather’s touch against the skin and as subtle as pale moonlight.

Grove draws the viewer into a narrative journey through emotional currents of love and loss, inviting meandering exploration though the physical elements and thematic nuances of the installation. “… shadows are sketched on to the floor, prompting a reconsideration of reality. Light cast by segments of mirror distorts the space allowing myth to slip easily into reality. Ghost stories find a perfect place to inhabit here. Fries’ inclusion of feathers is a reference to the feathered cloak from the tale. The feathers make subtle movements and prompt an inkling that the mythical past endures.  It is the feelings that are invoked through being immersed in whispers of the ancient narrative that bring the fiction to reality.”**

Tracing a trail between severed bamboo stems and charcoal-feathered debris, the viewer is lead towards a shaft of flickering, pale, cool light. Reflecting off fallen windowpanes, the light moves slowly, following the silhouette of a leaf filament caught in a spider’s web. Ensnared by strong threads, this feather-like shape is held between heaven and earth, unable to really connect with either, like the bamboo cutter’s adopted daughter pulled by familial ties, belonging to two disparate homes.

* Tokiko Kiyota, Director Japan Foundation Sydney, (excerpt from the Grove exhibition publication)
** Cass Matthews & Venita Poblocki, Installing myth in the everyday
, (excerpt from Installing Myth in the Everyday exhibition essay, Grove exhibition publication)

Grove is the third and final installment of the 2010 Facenate! series. Facetnate! is a new visual artists project by the Japan Foundation.

fascinate: to capture the interest or hold the attention of.
facet: one of the polished plane surfaces of a cut gem.

Facetnate! is an affiliate exhibition of the 17th Biennale of Sydney. more about facetnate!