When observations become form draws upon what ABC international affairs journalist Stan Grant refers to as the three founding realities that comprise Australia: First Nation People, the British tradition, and the richness of migration. A fourth thread evolved during the course of the exhibition, the Australian landscape.
Dadang Christanto was born and grew up on Java, the largest island in Indonesia. In this tropical environment, cactus and succulents were not familiar to the landscape and only ever seen at the cinema or on tv. When he first arrived in Australia, Dadang visited Sydney Botanical Gardens and saw these unusual plants for the very first time. Now where the artist lives, near the Northern Rivers region in NSW, cactus gardens are commonplace. While the forms and colours are beautiful, to Dadang they represent a dichotomy of beauty and horror, much like the Indonesian archipelago - a beautiful place, but one which conceals its dark history and the genocide of 1965-66.
These new works embody this tension. Figures are hidden within the foliage of these dense and spiked plants. Dadang describes them as “Beauty wounded. Something which looks so soft on the surface but hard and dark inside.”