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Out of Place: One Artist's Story of Aboriginal Life

Pub Date:18-03-26 08:45 Source:China Daily

Snapshots of Zhou Xiaoping's life in the aboriginal community.[Photo provided to China Daily]

Ocher and ink were used in the collaborative painting by the two artists of different races with traditional Chinese painting occupying the left side of the canvas, while a design typical of indigenous Australian art taking up the right. In the artwork, images of fish swimming from right to left symbolize the communication between the artists' two cultures.

Most of Zhou's earlier paintings focused on directly portraying the aborigines.

As he gained a deeper insight into aboriginal spirituality over the years, Zhou began to express his feelings through his own abstract works, which usually include aboriginal symbols.

The artist says he has developed his own style of art in recent years.

While he initially took aboriginal culture as his muse, he later began to meld cultural elements from aboriginal life into his works and discover his own sense of individualism.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull praised Zhou's work for its integration of elements from the Chinese, Western and indigenous creative traditions.

Zhou Xiaoping, (right) and aboriginal artist Jimmy Pike in Western Australia in the 1990s.[Photo provided to China Daily]

According to Turnbull, Zhou's comprehensive body of work explores an array of important themes - such as identity and belonging, connections between people and the land, and the continuing renewal of ancient cultures in today's world.

"I grew up in China, spent years with the aboriginal Australians, and was once educated in Australia for a postgraduate program. Something cross-cultural has been internalized and should be embodied in my paintings," says Zhou.

His journals and photo albums are piled high in his studio in Melbourne, which help him recall his countless stories with the aborigines.

Eager to show Australian mainstream society what he has witnessed over the past three decades, Zhou is writing a book that records his firsthand experience of aboriginal communities and is planning to film a documentary based on the book.

"Anyway, I am a painter, not a scholar or a storyteller - but I suppose I do have lots of stories to tell," says Zhou. "What I really wanted to pursue was the ability to express myself in my paintings in an original way that derives exclusively from my own experiences."

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