A Chinese Art Induced "Double Take" at Sydney's White Rabbit Gallery

A Chinese Art Induced "Double Take" at Sydney's White Rabbit Gallery
Zhou Xiaohu, Renown, 2007, mixed media installation
(Courtesy White Rabbit Gallery)

As I stepped out of the elevator on the top floor of Sydney’s White Rabbit Gallery, I was met by two burly security guards one of whom said “please keep the noise down as a film crew are filming inside”. 

Upon entering the gallery space I could see the backs of a film crew filming what appeared to be one of the artworks from the exhibition – a video of a Chinese man speaking into a microphone in Chinese projected onto a three dimensional model of a person. 

While I watched the film crew do their thing, a gallery guide appeared wearing an apron typical of those worn by almost every female Chinese take-away worker, proceeded to provide us with a tour of the works on display.

I thought it rather rude that the gallery guide was speaking as loudly as she was while a film crew were trying to film, as did the person standing next to me.  After introducing some of the other works in the exhibition, the guide walked over to the film crew and, in a voice just as loud, began to explain what was going on.  “And here we have a work by Zhou Xiaohu featuring lifelike silicone models of a film crew......” was all I heard.

A brief moment of embarrassment, as I realised I had been fooled by an incredible work of art, quickly turned to amazement and awe.  It was at that point that I understood why the exhibition had been given the title Double Take.

Celebrating their third birthday, White Rabbit Gallery’s Double Take exhibition takes a look back as well as forward, mixing new pieces with some of the most popular works from earlier shows.

“Where people have seen an artwork before, they’ll see it in a new context this time, and that will add a whole new dimension.  And with all the works we’ve chosen, there’s a sense  of ‘This isn’t what it seems to be.’ You Think, ‘Hang on, what did I just see?’ And you look again.” explained Gallery Manager Paris Neilson.

A credit to the talent of the contemporary artists on display, and the keen eye of art collector and gallery founder Judith Neilson, virtually every work in the show elicits the same response: disbelief followed by awe.

One of the highlights of the exhibition is an amazing sculpture by Gao Rong whose work is also featured in the 2012 Sydney Biennale.  Level 1/2, Unit 8, Building 5, Hua Jiadi, North Village (2010) recreates the entrance of the cheap basement flat that as a student Gao Rong used to rent in Beijing.  Sculpted completely out of fabric, the artist meticulously recreates the scene in incredible detail, one stitch at a time, right down to the rust on the water pipe.

From Tu Wei-Cheng's Happy Valentine’s Day (2011), a chocolate shop all decked out with hearts and pink ribbon, where the chocolates are tiny tanks, guns and hand grenades, to the amusing pedal powered replica of a Harley Davidson motorcycle by Liao Chien-Chung, all the works featured in Double Take are nothing short of amazing.

Neilson’s desire that visitors will be inspired by the show’s creative double-takes “so when they leave the Gallery, they’ll look at all kinds of things in new ways”, is undoubtedly achieved with what could only be described as a truly eye opening experience.

Double Take is currently on display at White Rabbit Gallery in Sydney which is open Thursday to Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.