Over Lunar New Year, Sydney’s harbour is dotted with giant luminous lanterns shaped like the animals of the Chinese zodiac—from a towering ram made of mahjong tiles to twelve scantily-clad dancing rats. The centrepiece is an eight-metre tall dog sitting stoicly beneath the Opera House sails. The Lunar Lantern, a contemporary interpretation of a centuries-old tradition, was commissioned by the City of Sydney and created by Melbourne-via-Hangzhou artist Song Ling.
Giant Labrador-shaped sculptures are a new venture for the trained ink painter and proponent of China’s New Wave (ba wu shing tao) of the 1980s. Ling graduated in 1984 from the China Academy of Art, majoring in traditional ink painting techniques yet never applying them to traditional paintings,
In the late ‘70s, China introduced the Open Door Policy, an economic reform that opened the country up to the rest of the world for the first time. For the artists of the New Wave, it was the first time they were able to witness art from the Western world (for Ling, Salvador Dalí and René Magritte resonated the most), learn foreign techniques, and digest the concepts behind these works.
Ling has spent the last thirty years living in Melbourne, raising a family and practising his art while travelling back and forth between Australia and his home in the lakeside Hangzhou in China’s Zhejiang province. This Lunar Lantern commission allowed Ling to realise his traditionally black-and-white ink wash techniques in vibrant sculptural form.