WHITE RABBIT GALLERY – is nothing too hard for a Chinese artist?

It took Shi Jindian three years to sheath every part of a side-car motor bike in woven wire, creating Blue CJ750.

Something that impresses us about much Chinese art, quite apart from what it looks like, is the amount of time, effort and detailed work which has gone into its creation. It seems that nothing is too much trouble.

In Sydney’s White Rabbit Gallery, one of the world’s greatest private collections of contemporary Chinese art is available to anyone who’s interested, absolutely free. Thanks, owner Judith Neilson, for opening our eyes to this world of imagination and whimsy combined with extraordinarily patient effort.

Would any western artist bother to create a hill of sunflower seeds, each one a hand-painted ceramic? That’s what Ai Weiwei has done.

Ai Weiwei’s hand-painted sunflower seeds, inspired by his family’s times of hunger, when such things were luxuries. ‘Each one is valuable,’ he says, and given the work involved we believe him.

Mr Weiwei possibly knows a local factory that could knock out a heap of plastic sunflower seeds which would look exactly the same as what he’s made. But that would defeat the purpose. The whole concept is to do it by hand, however much work that involves.

Gao Feng‘s Flying features hand luggage wittily reincarnated as miniature helicopters. Any other artist would be happy with the concept and would leave it at that. Mr Feng goes a step further. The video in the gallery shows that Gao Feng’s creations really can fly, with the aid of a remote control.

Gao Feng: Flying

Nice idea of Ye Sen’s to chain these blocks together. Then we’re told the whole thing, chains included, is carved from a single piece of wood.

Inspired by Chinese lanterns, Li Hongbo has pressed together sheets of paper into concertina stacks which he then cuts into shape with an electric saw. There must be an easier way to do this, but here is the result…

Li Hongbo’s Paper

And when an almost identical stack is spread out, it looks like this:

Li Hongbo’s Paper, 2010.

The shop and cafe are very popular, and if the oolong tea was a little lacking in oomph (well, that’s what Chinese tea is supposed to be like, isn’t it?) the surroundings were very congenial.

We loved the ceiling decor of massed birdcages.

It took us far too long to organise our first visit to White Rabbit Gallery, a short walk from Sydney’s Central Station. Since it opened in 2009, friends have regularly raved about it, but it wasn’t until last week that Mevrouw T and I managed to find our way to it through the back lanes of Sydney’s Chippendale.

The world needs more philanthropists like Judith Nielson and her husband Kerr. Packed into four floors is some of the most exciting, entertaining art we’ve seen. Exhibitions rotate every few months. We’ll be back soon.


White Rabbit Gallery, in the former Rolls Royce showroom, Chippendale, Sydney.

The White Rabbit Gallery is open from 10.00 -18.00 Thursday to Sunday. Entry is free.


Filed under Art, Travel-Australia

15 responses to “WHITE RABBIT GALLERY – is nothing too hard for a Chinese artist?

  1. Nice pics, Richard, and very inspiring art. I saw the floor full of sunflower seeds at the Tate Modern in London and was astonished to learn that they were all hand painted. Apparently, Mao used to insist that he was the sun and the Chinese people were his sunflowers. (It just struck me that there is a Louis XIV conceit going on in that image). Anyway, it seemed to me that Wei was suggesting that every sunflower is an individual, even though they are all part of the Chinese mass. But that the individual reflecting the Sun was not of any interest to Mao. He was only after the idolatry of the masses.

  2. Thanks John.

    It was indeed Ai Weiwei whose sunflower seeds were in the Tate Modern. There were 100 million of them there, hand painted by 1600 artisans (thanks, Wikipedia). I knew he’d need some help if he kept on doing this sort of thing.

    Don’t miss the White Rabbit when next you’re in sunny Sydney.

  3. Looks amazing, I love the birdcages hanging from the ceiling as well. I am heading to Sydney soon, perhaps I can fit in a visit to the White Rabbit.

  4. It’s on my ‘to do’ list for when I go down to Sydney next year. Fabulous 🙂

  5. Great post highlighting an interesting aspect of Chinese art. Quick note: Chinese people’s family names are usually first, so Ai Weiwei is Mr. Ai, Gao Feng is Mr. Gao, etc. Some people switch them around so it does get confusing, but that’s the norm.

  6. Amazing art AND gallery!

  7. petit4chocolatier

    Interesting and amazing; love the birdcages.

  8. One of my fav galleries in Sydney! Great post!

  9. Pingback: THE CHINESE BIKE ART PUZZLE | Richard Tulloch's LIFE ON THE ROAD

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