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Damien Shen at Benalla Art Gallery

Exhibition Dates: 22nd January – 21st March 2021.

Join Damien Shen and Ashley Crawford in conversation on Saturday 6 March, 1.30 – 2.30pm at Benalla as part of the PHOTO 2021 International Festival of Photography.

Damien Shen presents a stunning new body of work titled A Stone from Another Mountain. He is an artist who has become nationally renowned both for his remarkable skills as a draughtsman and for his unique explorations of personal background.

Shen was born from the rich combined heritage of mainland China and the Ngarrindjeri peoples of South Australia and he has adopted traditional imagery and documentary exploration to create works that similarly embrace traditional drawing and the rather archaic technology of wet-plate collodion photographic process.

For this exhibition the artist searched for archival images of paintings from various Dynasty periods and discovered that the Shen family name harks from China’s Song Dynasty period. Thus, to indicate his Chinese ancestry he created a self-portrait, placing himself onto the image of the emperor on a horse and then placing the figure onto the Coorong (Ngarrindjeri homelands) alongside portraits of his immediate Ngarrindjeri family, to indicate his immediate Indigenous background.

The resulting black and white works, framed in stunningly elaborate Oriental-style red frames, reveal a rich cultural tapestry of Ngarrindjeri/Chinese culture. Shen takes this process even further, graphically scratching into the surface of the works in order to add a further level of complexity and drawing skills. The results suggest a pride in a rich ancestral background, while also acknowledging the complexities of cultural heritage.