The Ideal Life

Jackie McMillan
20th Jan 2024

If the National Art School (NAS) has piqued your interest about Chinese and Chinese-Australian artists, check out Vermilion Art next. This is a selling art gallery in Walsh Bay with a focus on Chinese art. Taking their cue from In Our Time: Four decades of art from China and beyond, the team at Vermilion have selected 17 artists who also have work in the Geoff Raby collection. Their resulting exhibition,  The Ideal Life: A group exhibition of artists in the Geoff Raby collection, runs until 9 March 2024. While the prices are eye-watering in places, taking a walk around the two-shop gallery is free and a great way to learn more. Guan Wei for example, has seven pieces in this exhibition from two-panel screens like Star Map 3 (2020)  to small scale pieces that have a strong Australian influence like Shadowing No. 1, 6 and 7 (2021).

Unlike public galleries where the onus is often on education, here you won’t find detailed wall labels. The focus is on connecting potential buyers to gallery staff. However you can pick up a price list near the front door and at least work out who is who. The standout work for me was Yang Xifa’s Universe in coins (2021) which continues the eroticism I was taken by at NAS by burying fishnet-clad chubby nymphs in the detailed ink work. Laurens Tan presents a lounge from The depth of ease (2007–2008) series alongside the NAS piece; and Ling Jian’s haunting Peony girl (2011) that forms the ad for the exhibition can be seen in the gallery front window. Be sure to get up close and personal with Guo Jian’s Beauty No. 2 (2016). This large inkjet print is actually an intricate photographic collage made up of 10,000 famous faces, clippings from trash the artist finds on China’s streets. While certainly commanding from afar, up close it’s an extraordinary piece of art as obsession.