Spirit Worlds Editorial – Visual Arts

EDIT*RIAL – image by Lian Low

As a child, I remember our annual family trip to Rookwood Cemetery in western Sydney, where we would go to honour our ancestors during Ching Ming, the Clear Brightness Festival. We joined the crowds of people sweating in the sun, jostling to clean and sweep gravestones, offering flowers, food, tea and wine by the graves, floating through the haze of burnt offerings of paper clothes, shoes and money.

Standing in the dizzying heat of the midday sun, I picked up handfuls of gold and silver ingots, which I had carefully folded with my mum the day before, and recall the spicy smell of the floury joss paper that left trails of shimmering gold dust all over my fingers. As I tossed the paper money into the fire, I remember watching the blue smoke curl up in ribbons, silent offerings lifted up by the wind to disappear into another world.

Since then I have always thought about the remarkable nature of the myriad ways in which diverse cultures mark the passing of those who have left this world. In Tibet, a jhator, or sky burial, is a traditional funerary custom of an open cremation in which the deceased’s body is offered to the birds. Stemming from a belief in the impermanence of all things, the body is seen merely as an empty vessel to be returned to the cycle of life, death and rebirth.

I think of the echo of those who have come before us, the ways in which their words and actions live on in the world around us. In thinking of the material and the immaterial and how we speak of the absence of those who have passed through our lives, edition 14 of Peril embarks on an exploration of ‘Spirit Worlds’ through the work of two contemporary artists whose evocative art practices speak of unknown shores beyond the self.

Shoufay Derz is an emerging Sydney based artist whose practice delves into notions of the ineffable, something so sacred that it cannot be expressed in words. Her multi-disciplinary practice spans photography, video and sculpture, and takes her on journeys out to some of the most remote places in the world as she attempts to communicate an essence of the sublime.

Cyrus Tang is a Melbourne based artist, whose haunting video and installation work stands at the crossroads of memory, nostalgia and disappearance. Her work uses ephemeral materials in rituals of purification and destruction to reflect the gradual decay of all human memory.

I hope that through the work of these artists, you enjoy a glimpse of spirit worlds beyond our own.

Owen Leong

Author: Owen Leong

Owen Leong, Peril Visual Arts Editor, is a contemporary artist and curator. He is currently undertaking his PhD at Sydney College of the Arts, University of Sydney. Owen uses the human body as a medium to interrogate social, cultural and political forces. He has exhibited widely in Australia and internationally including Chicago, Beijing, Berlin, Hong Kong, London, Shanghai and Singapore. Owen has been the recipient of numerous awards and grants from the Australia Council for the Arts, Ian Potter Cultural Trust, Art Gallery of NSW and Asialink. He has held residencies at Artspace, Sydney; Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester; Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris; and Tokyo Wonder Site, Japan. Leong’s work is held in the Bendigo Art Gallery collection and private collections across Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Visit him at www.owenleong.com

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