The Asian Century in Australia

Discussions about the 'Asian Century' prompted a group of North Queensland artists to reflect on interactions, past and present, between Australia and the wider Asian region,  through their exhibition, 'Asian Influence', which opened at Canopy Art Space in Cairns on July 19, 2013.

Historically, Asia has always been important to Australia – for centuries Indonesian fishermen have visited our northern shores to harvest trepang and to trade with the indigenous inhabitants.  Chinese, Indian, Afghan and Japanese settlers helped to develop the mining, pastoral and pearling industries and China is now a major investor in agriculture and mining.

Ten artists from those featured on this website accepted the invitation to research the history and potential of Asian involvement in Australia. We hope that you enjoy the results.

Please click on images to enlarge them.

Images from Asian Century, Asian Influence exhibition

Laurel McKenzie

 'Tasty Morsels'

 'Joshi Seeto ii'

...The mosaic of collaged fragments in these works creates a context that refers to the visual language of contemporary Japanese culture – a culture that embraces at once the cute (kawaii) and graphic violence, a refined aesthetic and a jumble of indiscriminate consumption.

The images begin as collages on paper that are digitally scanned, layered and further manipulated in the digital environment to create the final image. They are printed as limited edition prints using archival (pigment-based) inkjet technology and archival paper, guaranteeing the longevity of the prints.

Ross Bannister

'Opium Moon'

'Kundalini Rising'

'Phoenix Rising'

...Beginning in the 18th century, opium accompanied the Chinese to the West. Within 20 years, recreational opium smoking (as opposed to the already established practice of taking opium in medicinal elixirs) had spread over much of North America.  Similar migrations of Chinese to Australia, New Zealand and South Africa brought opium smoking to these places, but the habit failed to catch on with the non-Chinese at this time, although many aboriginal inhabitants became addicted to the substance.

Ola Hoglund

'Red Vase'


My glass work is a fusion of contemporary ideas developed from traditional craftsmanship, using old techniques. As an artist the process never stops and I continually seek to make improvements and develop new ideas.

Inspiration for these blown glass vases comes from Asian influences and a passion for bright colours and vibrant cultures. In traditional Chinese art and culture, the colour red corresponds to the element of fire and symbolises good fortune and joy.   

Terry Johnson

'Koi Garden 1'

'Sunset Water Garden'

'Koi Garden 2'

Koi gardens, originating in Asia, are now found throughout the world. The  ambience generated by these restful water features has become an attraction in many Australian gardens including my own.
To many the Koi is synonymous with harmony and happiness and in feng shui the bringer of wealth, prosperity and good fortune as well.
So with such powerful positive symbolism and a favourite spot in my garden I couldn't resist creating a painting of a koi garden and sharing with you my delight in its splendour.

Lone White

Pot with handle

Green Urn


Spinosus  works  were inspired by some beautiful Buddhist bronze bells seen  while visiting northern China in 1996. The bells had engraved patterns around spiky points which had a wonderful light and shade effect  that intrigued me. The lids of the pots reflect roof styles of temples seen in Asia.

I have always loved visiting museums looking at the old bronze and metalware and decided to try to make ceramic forms that also looked old and metallic.

Jill Booth

'Desert Tracks 1'

'Desert Tracks 2'

'Desert Tracks 3'

These three small paintings reflect on the important, but often  forgotten,  role that Afghan, Indian, Turkish and Egyptian cameleers played in opening up the ‘outback’ of Australia, in establishing townships and supply routes and in supporting the gold and pastoral industries during the late nineteenth century.

It would have been an incredibly harsh life, perhaps made more bearable by their religious beliefs. Five times every day they would unfold their worn prayer mats, face them towards Mecca and pray. How comforting that practice and their mats must have been.

Sasi Victoire

'Whispers 1'

'Whispers 2'

'Whispers 3'

It is an undeniable fact that Asian influence is very noticeable in the emergence of Australian sophisticated cuisine offered today. There is a significant exchange and transfer of food habits that also influences a change in health pattern of Australian consumers.

In my work I convey this phenomenon using a variety of real spices in creating these mixed media prints.

Mary Ann Runciman

'Sill 1'


'CN Couples'

My work is very formal rather than descriptive, narrative or subject oriented. The Asian influence comes in - and this applies specially to Japanese art - in silhouette, outline, and the arrangement of the "page".

There is not much interior description of the subject, any volume is implied by a telling outline - three dimensions implied by two dimensions...I like to reduce the detail, description and colouring as far as it will go. I think this minimal approach is very Asian influenced. The intertwined figures have cousins in Indian temple carvings.

Yoshiko Kirby

'Man Who Sells Persian Carpets'

'Woman Who Came From Russia'

'Man With Sincerity'

As Australia continues to become more a part of Asia, I sense that the Eastern spirit and aesthetic will emerge more and more and shape how we interact.

I was born in Japan where the way of life is influenced by Shintoism, an indigenous spirituality of Japan, with a respect for Nature and human souls.  I have inherited the old Japanese spirit – one that infuses itself in how I see and engage with the world outside my homeland.  Through human souls, I can connect with people in Australia, where I know only part of the culture.

Probably for that reason, whenever I paint, my brush always somehow leads me to people.

Linda Jackson

Waratara 1

'Gold Dakini Scroll'

Waratara 2

My Asian influence started in the late 60’s with Kuan Yin, the Chinese Goddess of Compassion, with her flowing robes and gentle, peaceful face.

Journeys into Buddhist sites and temples throughout Asia and India reinforced my interest in Buddhist philosophy and the related artforms.

Japanese and Chinese art, costume and textiles became an integral inspiration throughout the following years. Buddha’s robes, the patchwork Kesa, constructed with remnants representing humility.. .Tibetan thangkas, sacred images in scroll form…appliqué and woodblock prints.  Most recently, I painted several 6 metre long banners with Pink Lotus for The Great Stupa in Bendigo -Vesak festival in celebration of Buddha’s birthday.

For more information about participating artists and their previous work, please see this page.

Some artists submitted more artworks for the Asian Influence exhibition than are shown here. If you would like to see those, or to enquire about purchasing works featured, please use the form, below.

If the subject of what our government is calling The Asian Century interests you and you wish to contribute to comments and discussions about our history, current involvement in Asia or potential future relationships, please do so at this fine arts forum.

There are almost certainly untold stories that we would all find fascinating; perhaps you also have some photos to share? I noticed that, at the opening of Asian Influence, many of the attendees were reminded of past experiences or stories told by grandparents about 'Ghan camps, Chinese market gardeners - or the hair-raising stories of pioneers in the days of gold rushes.

At this 'Virtual Exhibition' opening, please feel free to join in!

Enquire about the Asian Influence exhibition.

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