In Between Two Worlds

Artist: Jason Wing
Location: Chinatown, Sydney, Australia

Year of completion: 2011
Researcher: Kelly Carmichael

In Between Two Worlds (2011) is a powerful public project by Australian artist Jason Wing meshing Chinese and Aboriginal symbolism in vivid blue hues. The installation consists of three main components: wall murals, floor murals, and 30 suspended illuminated spirit figures. In Between Two Worlds sets out to engage with its audience and also explore the physicality of its site—the work existing in the airspace above the laneway as well as on the road surface, where motifs etched into granite echo the wall mural’s cloud design. Situated in Kimber Lane at the heart of Sydney’s thriving Chinatown area, by day the walls of the lane are brightened by a mural of blue clouds while silver figures hover overhead. By night the ‘spirit’ figures illuminate the lane with an otherworldly blue glow, inviting visitors to explore and contemplate their unusual mix of heritage and contemporary iconography and bi-cultural references.

Jason Wing is a contemporary artist working in various mediums to examine social and cultural identity. Of Aboriginal, Chinese, and European heritage Wing owns and explores his experienced multicultural heritage, creating work that exists between cultures. Strongly influenced by his bi-cultural Chinese and Aboriginal upbringing, Wing explores ongoing challenges that impact his community. Both rich in symbolism and poetic metaphor, the artist’s Chinese and Aboriginal cultures find full expression in the installation In Between Two Worlds. Through the work, Wing sought to pay respect to the indigenous Gadigal people of Sydney and evoke the myriad cultures—both old and new—who call Chinatown home. “I wanted to create an experience like walking in between two worlds or travelling between heaven and earth” the artist commented.

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Incorporating the elements of wind, water, fire, and earth, the artwork brings important Chinese and Aboriginal cultural motifs to inner city Sydney. In both cultures the elements are said to have their own spirits and in the Chinese Zodiac humans were created with the characteristics of elements. The half human, half spirit figures Wing has suspended above Kimber Lane reflect this, representing past, present, and future ancestors. Suggesting heaven and earth, the elements, and respect for ancestors past and present, Wing evokes universal themes and allows the work to open more widely, offering points of connection between other cultures.

The artist’s multicultural heritage gives him a unique perspective on the site, its history and how it functions within the city of Sydney. The work feels like a digital game at times, especially when illuminated at night, as it incorporates a contemporary aesthetic mixed with recognizably Asian motifs. While In Between Two Worlds offers many points of connection for its audience, it also is something of a rupture in public art practice in this area. In the past public art in Sydney’s Chinatown has been formulated within a representational mode of ubiquitous and clichéd elements, such as lanterns and red lighting. While it is important to recognize and locate the Chinese community living and working within the precinct, this aesthetic does little to recognize contemporary Asian culture and its constant evolution. In Between Two Worlds readdresses that, offering a striking and much loved public artwork by a young, multi-racial Australian artist embracing a new dynamic.

All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

Progress Agency