Familiar Stranger

SYDNEY. 7 APRIL – 21 MAY 2017.

Artists: Shumon Ahmed, Chun Yin Rainbow Chan, Bashir Makhoul, Veer Munshi, Shireen Taweel and Curtis Taylor.

The reconciliation between memory and reality plagues the act of returning. There is no resolution between the two. Memories are etched into the psyche hinged on topographical monuments, whispered words and subconscious everyday patterns while reality erases such symbology through the passing of time. Familiar Stranger examines this third, non-existent space that plagues the returnee as they seek to retrace their memories in places that have been rebuilt or reinscribed. With familiarity reduced to invisible archaeological sites the returnee searches for recognition and legitimacy in a now unacquainted geography.

The exhibiting artists examine the negation and erasure of familiarity by presenting place as a space defined by uncertainty. There is a continue shift between points of view that begets the collapse of spatial certainty and becomes defined by its own instability. For the migrant the idea of returning becomes an implicit part of their identity; the constant oscillation between the possibility and impossibility of return a daily taunt. In Familiar Stranger the moment of return is the focal point where, for some, it is a wistful hope and for others a violent decimation of expectancy. Resisting melodrama, the artists turn to the familial archive and the personal memorial to bring form to the constant internal struggle between what is and what was.



Exhibition Opening:
6.00pm – 8.00pm Thursday 6 April
Exhibition to be opened by Brendan O’Flynn, Human Rights Watch.
Opening performance from Chun Yin Rainbow Chan from 7PM – 7.30PM
RSVP here.

Panel Discussion:
2.00pm – 3.00pm Saturday 8 April
Join Familiar Stranger artists Chun Yin Rainbow Chan and Shireen Taweel, Fairfield Parents’ Cafe team leader Haitham Jaju and 4A Director Mikala Tai for a discussion about the realities and experiences of returning from migrant, refugee and artistic perspectives. RSVP here.

Chun Yin Rainbow Chan Performances:
Visit 4A at the following times to see Chun Yin Rainbow Chan perform as part of her Familiar Stranger work:
11.30am Saturday 22 April
2.00pm Saturday 29 April

Cantonese Language Classes:
As part of the public program for Familiar Stranger, the public are invited to join us for weekly Cantonese language classes on Thursday nights for the duration of the exhibition. With a curriculum curated by Chun Yin Rainbow Chan, join us for these one-hour classes to either refresh or learn new language skills and gain a further insight into Chan’s work. Find out more here – bookings open soon!


About the artists:

Bashir Makhoul (b. 1963, Galilee, Palestine, lives and works in Birmingham, United Kingdom) is a Palestinian artist born in Galilee in 1963. He has been based in the United Kingdom for the past 22 years. During this time he has produced a body of work, based on repeated motifs, which can be characterized by their power of aesthetic seduction. Once drawn into the work however, viewers find themselves engaged with something far more complicated than a beautiful pattern. Economics, nationalism, war and torture are frequently woven into the layers of Makhoul’s work and often the more explicit the material, the more seductive the surface.

Makhoul completed his PhD in 1995 at Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK. He has exhibited his work widely in Britain and internationally, including the Hayward Gallery, London, Tate Liverpool, Harris Museum, Preston, Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, the Liverpool Biennial, Jordan National Museum, NCA Gallery Lahore Pakistan, the Florence Biennial, Haus am Lutzowplatz Berlin, UTS Gallery, Sydney, Australia, Elga Wimmer Gallery, New York, Changshu Art Museum, Suzhou Art Museum, Shenzhen Art Museum in China, 798 Yang Gallery Beijing and many others. In 2013, he  presented his work at the Venice Biennial in Italy and Aichi Biennial in Japan. He will show at the Asian Triennial in Manchester UK in 2014.

Curtis Taylor (b. Broome, Western Australia, Australia, lives and works in Perth, Australia) is a filmmaker, screen artist, actor and a young Martu leader. Growing up in remote Martu desert communities and in the city, Curtis has both traditional Martu knowledge and a non-Aboriginal education. After finishing school in 2008 Curtis worked as Community Coordinator and Youth Development Officer at Martu Media (a division of Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa), where he also spent 18 months working on the major Yiwarra Kuju: The Canning Stock Route project as a filmmaker and youth ambassador. Curtis was the recipient of the 2011 Western Australian Youth Art Award and Wesfarmers Youth Scholarship. His screen work including the acclaimed short film ‘Mamu’ has been shown in international film festivals from Brazil to Nepal. Curtis has almost completed his film and media studies at Murdoch University. He was the Director’s Attachment and is the Narrator of ‘Collisions’.

Chun Yin Rainbow Chan ( b. 1990, Hong Kong, lives and works in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia) is a multidisciplinary artist who works across sound, performance and installation. Born in Hong Kong and raised in Sydney, she is interested in duality, diaspora and the effects of globalisation on modern Chinese society. Chan often evokes traditional Chinese methods or styles and represents them in uncanny ways. Her research engages with the authentic and the copy, exploring sites of exchange and desire which complicate Western notions of originality and “appropriate” consumption.

Central to Chan’s work is the circulation of knock-off objects, sounds and images in global media. Her work positions the fake as a complex sign that shapes new myths, values and contemporary commodity production. Sustained by a parasitic relationship to the original, the counterfeit interacts with the world in unpredictable ways. Chan investigates how these mimetic symbols, such as bootlegs or fake luxury goods, problematise the socially-regulated impulse of consumerist desire.

Tying together her works across installation and pop music is the relationship between nostalgia, migration and identity. Since winning FBi Radio’s Northern Lights Competition in 2011, Chan has been building a reputation as one of the most innovative artists in Australia with her highly personal, experimental pop music. She recently released her debut album Spacings (Silo Arts & Records) which was met with critical acclaim, handpicked as the feature album on FBi Radio, Radio Adelaide, RTRFM and scoring 4 stars from Rolling Stone. Under her techno project, Chunyin, Chan released Code Switch EP on UK label, Off Out, in September.

Chan has performed extensively with notable performances at the Sydney Opera House, Museum of Contemporary Art, Gallery of Modern Art, Art Gallery of New South Wales and Iceland Airwaves Festival. She has exhibited works at Firstdraft Gallery, Liquid Architecture and Squiggle Space. In October 2016, she was invited by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art to participate in the inaugural Longli International New Media Arts Festival in Guizhou Province, China. Chan has collaborated with choreographer Ivey Wawn for Out of The Studio, presented by DirtyFeet, and soundtracked ABC web-series The Glass Bedroom, directed by Kate Blackmore.

Shumon Ahmed  (b. 1977, Bangladesh, lives and works in Dhaka, Bangladesh) is a Dhaka-based poet and an artist who explores the fusion between video, photography, Sound, text and performance, creating stories that while seemingly contradictory, are private yet collective. His work with the camera and film has also been likened to abstract painting due to his experimental processing techniques with unpredictable results that yield the melancholic.

Ahmed studied photography at the South Asian Media Academy, Dhaka, Bangladesh (2006- 2009) & at The Danish school of Media and Journalism, Arhus, Denmark (2008).

His work has been previously exhibited in various galleries, festivals and screenings around the world including the 2014 Kochi-Muziris Biennale, India, Dhaka Art Summit, Bangladesh (2012, 2014, 2016), Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK (2010), Fotomuseum, Winterthur, Switzerland (2010), Art science museum, Singapore (2016), Krinzinger Projekete, Austria (2016) and a recent solo exhibition at Project88, Mumbai, India (2015).

In April, Shumon will take part in Familiar Stranger, a group exhibition at 4A Centre for Contemporary Art, Sydney.

Veer Munshi (b. 1955, Kashmir, India, lives and works in Dehli, India), a Kashmiri artist who now lives in Delhi has consistently used his art to reflect his anguish at the situation in his home state, his pain and struggle spilling over onto his canvass. Making a human rights statement rather than a political one, he has constantly sought to highlight the turmoil that comes  with his separation from his heritage, and to highlight the increasingly the narrow space that exists for culture and art in his state. He is also convinced that art. Because of its universal nature, can play a significant role in the resolution of the Kashmir situation. Unlike other contemporary artists, though, viewing pleasure is no motivator for veer in the creation of his art,rather it is about sharing a personally-felt experience as a ‘refugee’. His paintings and installations reflect a Kashmir that is in the context of the Kashmir.

Shireen Taweel (b. 1990, Bankstown, New South Wales, Australia, lives and works in Sydney, Australia) is currently practicing at the Parramatta Artist Studios in Sydney.  Much of Taweel’s practice is informed by her identity connected to the Middle East as her heritage further inspires her creative exploration through the refined processes in metallurgy. The nature of the relationship of her forms sit in a space between jewellery and sculpture, where her techniques of making takes the traditional art of copper-smithing into a contemporary context.

The works partake in a cross-cultural discourse, while the sense of the arcane and shifted structures opens dialogue between shared histories and relations between communities of fluid identities.

Taweel is a current Kickstart Helix Next Wave participant. Her recent solo shows include fractured//fluid terrains at SEVENTH Gallery, Melbourne (2017), translated roots at Verge Gallery, Sydney (2017) tomorrow, InshAllah at 55 Sydenham RD Marrickville, Sydney (2016) rhythms of the ritualistic at Gaffa Gallery, Sydney (2016) and promised denial at 146 ArtSpace, Hobart (2016).  Taweel is also a nominee of The Jameel Art Prize (2018) at Victoria and Albert Museum in London.



The People’s Currency


The People’s Currency is a new performance work by Melbourne-based artist Eugenia Lim. The work takes its name from Renminbi (China’s currency) and explores the social impacts of globalisation on those who seek their fortunes in the factories of China – or the ‘workshop of the world’. When almost everything is now ‘Made in China’, how are we all implicated as consumers, in the labour conditions of the production line? Dressed as a gold Mao-suited ‘ambassador’, Lim will inhabit a factory printing counterfeit currency of her own design. Presiding over the printing of money, Lim will also act as floor manager to a ‘factory’ of workers. The public is invited to enter into short-term ‘employment’ on the factory floor. In exchange for basic menial work, the ‘employee’ will be remunerated in The People’s Currency. The People’s Currency turns a site in Melbourne’s CBD into ‘Renminconn’, a closed loop ‘special economic zone’. In Lim’s project, mass-production and money-printing become strategies for contemplating the human impact of the ‘long march’ of global capitalism.

Eugenia Lim (b. 1981 Melbourne, Australia) is an Australian artist of Chinese–Singaporean descent who works across video, performance and installation. Interested in how nationalism and stereotypes are formed, Lim invents personas to explore the tensions of an individual within society – the alienation and belonging in a globalised world.

Conflations between authenticity, mimicry, natural, man-made, historical and anachronistic are important to the work. To this end, Lim finds inspiration in sites and objects that are both ‘contemporary’ and ‘out of time’, embodied and virtual. Model homes, suburban sprawl, CCTV, online chat rooms, fake food, historical parks and the Australian landscape have all featured in the work. Counterpoint to these sites, Lim has performed the identities of Japanese hikikomori; a Bowie-eyed rock star; the cannibal Issei Sagawa; a suburban beautician; Miranda from Picnic at Hanging Rock and currently, a gold Mao-suited ‘Ambassador’. This dialogue between place and performance reflects the push-pull between Australian and Asian, the mono and the multi-cultural.

Lim’s work has been exhibited internationally at venues including the Tate Modern, GOMA, ACMI, HUN Gallery NY, and FACT Liverpool. She has received a number of Australia Council for the Arts grants and residencies, including a residency at the Experimental Television Centre NY and exchange at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). She is currently an artist-in-residence at Bundanon Trust. Collaboration, artistic community and the intersection between art and society informs her practice: in addition to her solo work, she co-directed the inaugural Channels: the Australian Video Art Festival, is a board member at Next Wave, the founding editor of Assemble Papers and co-founder of interdisciplinary collective Tape Projects.




I don’t want to be there when it happens


Raj Kumar, Sonia Leber & David Chesworth and Adeela Suleman.

I don’t want to be there when it happens brings together artists who explore the psychology of contemporary trauma. Recent works by Raj Kumar, Sonia Leber & David Chesworth and Adeela Suleman all confront the larger socio-political realities of Pakistan in the era of contemporary warfare. Through video and installation, the artists address the experience of the individual in the midst of a continuous state of war. By scanning the landscape with nonsensical logic, futilely seeking to document destruction, and questioning the appropriation of religion, the artworks in the exhibition avoid resolution and closure. Instead, they highlight the individual’s inability to comprehend the expansive uncertainty of combat, and the impossibilities of representing the trauma of conflict.

I don’t want to be there when it happens presents truth as a precarious oscillation between fiction and reality. The artists resist literal or documentary approaches to their subjects, relying instead on speculative, symbolic, ambiguous and unstable modes of representation. In doing so, they emphasise how the individual’s attempts to understand and comprehend the reality of contemporary conflict are equally characterised by uncertainty and irresolvability. I don’t want to be there when it happens also seeks to acknowledge and present a multiplicity of perspectives on the ongoing conflicts in Pakistan and its region—perspectives which are all too easily overlooked or obscured by Western media and political interests.


Adeela Suleman’s work to be shown in I don’t want to be there when it happens has been co-commissioned by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art and The Keir Foundation.

Presented in collaboration with:




About the artists:

Adeela Suleman (b.1970, Karachi, Pakistan, lives and works in Karachi) draws attention to troubled sectarian and gang-led violence in Pakistan. Drawing from the traditions of Islamic art, Suleman moulds hardened steel and co-opts found objects to memorialise the countless killings within her country. With generous support from The Keir Foundation, 4A has co-comissioned Adeela Suleman to create new artworks for I don’t want to be here when it happens.

Suleman studied Sculpture at the Indus Valley School of Art and completed a Master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Karachi. She is the Coordinator of Vasl Artists’ Collective in Karachi, in addition to being Associate Professor and Head of the Fine Art Department at Indus Valley School of Art and Architecture. Suleman has participated extensively with group and solo exhibitions worldwide, including Phantoms of Asia at the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco; the 2013 Asian Art Biennial at the National Taiwan Museum of Fine Art; Hanging Fire – Contemporary Art from Pakistan at The Asia Society, New York; Gallery Rohtas 2, Lahore; Canvas Gallery, Karachi; Aicon Gallery, New York; and, the International Exhibition of Contemporary Art, Bologna, Italy.

Raj Kumar (b. 1984, Tando Mohammad Khan, Pakistan, lives and works in Tando Mohammad Khan) examines the religious practices, rituals and beliefs of Islam and its place in the contemporary world. Kumar draws from his own Islamic faith and experiences of living in Pakistan, a nation with where 97% of the population are Muslim. This is Kumar’s first international exhibition and is supported by the 4A Set (Sydney) members.

Raj Kumar graduated from the National College of Arts in Textile Design in 2007 and holds a Masters of Visual Arts (Honours) from the National College of Arts, Lahore, Pakistan. The 2015 National College of Arts Degree Show in Lahore was Kumar’s first exhibition as an artist.

Sonia Leber & David Chesworth (Sonia Leber b.1959, Melbourne, Australia, David Chesworth b. 1958, Stoke, England, live and work in Melbourne, Australia) have collaborated since 1996, creating multi-channel sound and media installations for a range of arts and public spaces. The have exhibited widely, including solo exhibitions include Zaum Tractor, Fehily Contemporary, Melbourne, 2014; The Way You Move Me, Fehily Contemporary, Melbourne, 2012; Space-Shifter, Detached/MONA FOMA, Hobart, 2012, and at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, 2011. Leber & Chesworth premiere their new work, Earthwork, at 4A as part of this exhibition.

Their work has also been included in numerous group exhibitions including Borders, Barriers, Walls, Monash University Museum of Art, 2016; Substation Contemporary Art Prize, Melbourne (winner), 2016; The Documentary Take, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne, 2016; 56th Venice Biennale: All the World’s Futures, 2015, 19th Biennale of Sydney: You Imagine What You Desire, 2014; Melbourne Now, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2013-14; Cooperation Territory, 16thLine Art Gallery and Makaronka Art Center; Spaced: Art Out of Place, Fremantle Art Centre, 2012; Animal/ Human, UQ Art Museum, Brisbane, 2012; Stealing the Senses, Govett-Brewster Gallery, New Plymouth, New Zealand, 2011.

Not Niwe, Not Nieuw, Not Neu




Not Niwe, Not Nieuw, Not Neu presents the work of artists who disturb the past, by reframing and reworking the mythologies of nationhood established and led by the scientific botanical work by Joseph Banks’ of the HMS Endeavour.

The voyage of the HMS Endeavour from 1768 – 1771, led by the then little known Lieutenant James Cook with botanist Joseph Banks, collected a staggering quantity of nondescript plant life from across the Asia Pacific – with approximately, 30 000 specimens from Australia and New Zealand alone, representing 3 000 species, of which 1600 were wholly new to science.[1]

The scale of this taxonomy, the science of naming and defining plant and animal life, for these pioneers, was without precedent and in many cases they created unstable, even flawed, systems of vocabulary, hierarchies and methods to describe this ‘new world’.[2]

Many of these instances outlast them to this day, for example, Cook named the the name for “Kangaroo” phonetically after ‘gangurru’, the term used by Aborigines on the North-East coast for local, large, grey marsupials – which was then accepted by Britain.[3] Had Cook realised the plurality of Aboriginal language and that this word was foreign to most tribes in Australia, the outcome would have been very different.[4] Nevertheless, examples like this set the template for generations of legends and myths.

The Not Niwe, Not Nieuw, Not Neu exhibition artists draw upon these conflicting (and occasionally confounding) myths. By investigating and subverting the colonial prejudices of language and nature, they provide new connections and frameworks for understanding these legacies –  forging a new order from the precarious vestiges and remainders of the so called ‘new world’.

[1] P. J. Hatfield., The Material History of the Endeavour in Chambers, N. (ed.), Endeavouring Banks (London: Paul Holberton Publishing, 2016).

[2] M. Hetherington and H. Morphy, Footprints in the Sand: Banks’s Maori collection, Cook’s first voyage 1768-71 (Canberra: National Museum of Australia, 2009).

[3]H. Parsons, British-Tahitian collaborative drawing strategies on Cook’s Endeavour voyage in Shino Konishi, Maria Nugent and Tiffany Shellam (ed.), Indigenous Intermediaries: new perspectives on exploration archives (Canberra: Australia National University Press, 2015).

[4] Ibid.



Michael Parekowhai, Robert Hayden, 2004, sparrow, two pot paint and aluminium. Image courtesy the artist and Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney.