The Asian is comprised of Heather Straka’s original oil painting of a Shanghai poster-girl from the 1920-30s, along with 50 identical images of the same woman produced by 50 artists working in the Dafen Oil Painting Village in the Longang District of Shenzhuen, in southern China.
The copy artists have each signed their version of Straka’s Asian Girl painting.
The Asian questions the significance of the original versus the copy.
Straka herself has appropriated aspects of the original poster girl, who at the time epitomised the newly emancipated Asian glamour girl of the Chinese middle class in the early 20th century.
Straka then took her painting to China for the artists to copy, each artist adding their own interpretation to their work.
The model strikes an at once demure yet seductive pose, her attire and appearance a juxtaposition of cultures. Straka compounds the fantasy-like girl-next-door image by adding a piece of kiwiana - a tiki, to bring the image back into a New Zealand cultural context. Straka then emphasises the deception by hanging her own painting indistinguishably amongst the others in the exhibition. As she asks, what is original and what is copy? And can you spot the difference?
Straka has received numerous accolades for her work including the Ethel Susan Jones scholarship, Pierce Lowe Award for excellence in painting from the Royal Overseas League, London, and the prestigious Frances Hodgkins fellowship from the University of Otago.
A Dunedin Public Art Gallery touring exhibition