Liu Bolin: Camouflage

The “Invisible Man” makes an appearance at the Ballarat International Foto Biennale

Liu Bolin vanishes in Bus Stop, 2012 (left) and Sunflower No. 1, 2012 (right).

A stark white wall of mobile phones. Shelves and shelves of magazines in an American news agency. Rows of blue and orange vinyl seats filling the UN’s General Assembly Hall. A mountain of stringy, rotten garbage. At a glance, and from a reasonable distance, these might be the quick summaries one’s eyes and brain make when looking at the photographic work of Liu Bolin. None of these descriptions sound particularly remarkable nor exceptional, but accept the invitation to look closer, and one will notice something quite extraordinary; each picture is disturbed by a faint and glassy shape. It is the barely visible form of a man, the artist himself, hiding in each frame in plain sight. Having mastered a unique practice that crosses and fuses photography, painting, performance and optical art, Liu Bolin cleverly camouflages himself with meticulous applications of acrylic paint (without digital manipulation) that allow him to blend almost seamlessly into backgrounds of environments that bare social, cultural or political importance. For Liu Bolin, the invisibility in which he veils himself and others in his artworks addresses tensions between society and the individual, and is symbolic of the powerlessness felt by those who identify as anonymous and insignificant.

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The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City

Edging the eastern boundary of New York’s Central Park is 5th Avenue, arguably one of the most expensive and elegant streets in the world. A significant stretch of the avenue, located in Midtown Manhattan, is lined with prestigious boutiques and luxury flagship stores. However, a little further along 5th Avenue, towards the Upper East Side, lies “Museum Mile”, a picturesque length of the street that is home to several cultural institutions that house some of New York’s finest and most treasured collections of art, design and history from around the world.

The rounded dome of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, viewed from Central Park

Materials, Methods and Meaning

While there is often a lot to be gleaned from the subject matter explored in art, there are instances when an artist’s choice of materials and techniques can make the meanings and ideas expressed in his/her artwork even more profound. I’ve chosen to share the work of two very unique APT9 artists, who have produced enormous commissions for the exhibition, with two key elements in common; both are comprised of thousands of objects intrinsically connected to cultural heritage and personal histories, and both have been shaped by empowering and meaningful practices and techniques.


While on the subject of place, development, loss and preservation…

APT9 Artist Highlight: Vuth Lyno

Social transformation, community relationships and urban development in Cambodia are central themes in Vuth Lyno’s work. His APT9 contribution, House – Spirit, is a beautiful and poignant sculptural construction that references Phnom Penh’s iconic White Building, a vibrant residential hub for artists, musicians and craftspeople, that stood in the heart of the city until its demolition by a foreign developer in 2017.

House – Spirit, 2018, detail

The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT9) & Artist Highlight #1

The first Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (APT) was held at Queensland Art Gallery (QAG) in 1993. According to the exhibition catalogue, this made QAG the first art institution to comprehensively address the art of the region. Further to this, the aim of the exhibition was not to place Brisbane at the heart of the Asia Pacific art world, but to better comprehend, appreciate and connect with powerful work by artists who had their fingers on the pulse, coming to the fore from a dynamic and rapidly changing region, of which Australia was a significant part.

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