Early Days 4A
Early Days brings together Arthur Garlock Chang, a nonagenerian Chinese community leader and poet and Zhang Rui, a young artist who arrived in Sydney just over one year ago. Chang has written a series of free-verse poetry, reflecting on his life in Australia and involvement in a number of key social and political events in the history of Australia, from the unionising of the wharves, to the abolition of the White Australia Policy and the independence of Indonesia. In addition, Rui’s paintings are at once an illustration of these moments as well as a consideration of the social role of Chinatown.
Arthur Garlock Chang arrived in Australia in 1935 and worked alongside his father in the tin mining town of Tingha, New South Wales. Later, as a young man he moved to Sydney to work on the Darling Harbour wharf. Through his poetry Chang remembers his own life as well as other figures that he worked and lived with during his incredible life, including Mei Quong Tart and Frank Gee-Lee whom he writes about in this collection. Importantly, Chang’s personal insight into these historical events brings to light the inter-cultural connections and relationships that existed long before multiculturalism became a popular national policy.
Arriving in Sydney in 2012, Zhang Rui presents an alternative perspective on the experience of engaging with an unfamiliar landscape and how a longing for home can manifest itself in one’s new homeland. The illustrations included here crystallise a number of important moments from Arthur’s life, of national significance. Equally, Rui has explored her own attempts to connect with family and friends from home. Rui has explained that Rainbow (2012) was inspired by a rainbow she saw form over Sydney Harbour in June 2012. On the same day, another rainbow formed from droplets of water, the residue of fire hoses that tried to extinguish a catastrophic fire in her hometown of Tianjin. In this sense, Rainbow considers the international reverberations of specific moments in history, while also attempting to connect the artists new home with her old.
Early Days brings together the parallel trajectories of Arthur Garlock Chang Chang and Zhang Rui as a means of thinking of Chinatown across a historical spectrum. By presenting both a historical and contemporary perspective, Early Days hopes to bring to life the important role of individuals such as Chang in the history of Australia, while acknowledging Chinatown as an accumulation of the past and the present. Furthermore, as a bi-lingual publication (Chinese and English), Early Days was able to successfully document the important experiences of Chang for an audience beyond the local Chinese community.
Published by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art.
First published 2013.
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Author: Arthur Garlock Chang
Publication Editor: Toby Chapman
Translation: Lorraine Chung
Published by: 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, 2013