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Image credit: Natalie Quan Yau Tso, Remnants from video performance Nothing Happened Here , 2022, Rice flour, tapioca starch, wheat flour, saliva mixture with chopsticks on metal tin. 28x28cm

Exhibition showing until Saturday May 21, 2022

I Have Arrived at Yellow features new work from Natalie Quan Yau Tso in her first solo show since graduating honours. She investigates yellow as the layered colour of anti-erasure within the contexts of both racial identity in Australia and cultural-political tensions in Hong Kong. The installations, sculptures and performances disrupt bodily boundaries to evoke slippages between political and personal trauma. 

Flesh lies beneath hair and skin where trauma is hardly visible yet dictates the body. In a video performance Nothing Happened Here, Tso eats 腸粉 (steamed rice rolls) while singing songs, reading online comments and reciting from various ‘banned’ sources about the 2019 protests. The substance passes in and out of her mouth as she stuffs, recites, spits, sings and feeds herself, hinting at the weight of Hong Kong’s political trauma corroding in between bodies and societies. The muffled pronunciation evokes conflicts of self-censorship, protection from violence, grief, fear, and refusal to accept the erasure of Hong Kong. 

Skin is a contested site that wounds before imbuing into traumatic memory. Yellowing is a set of two painterly-bodily sculptures, a development from the material she created. Two yellow and white skins face each other, posing as her migrant and assimilated selves looking at, hidden yet ashamedly aware of each other’s presence. 

Hair is a witness to trauma who can be freed. Tso crochets her and her partner’s hair together in A Knotted Wedding to symbolise their queer union, where she will then perform上頭Sheung Tau ceremony. The traditionally sexist ceremony is meant to signify the bride ‘becoming a woman’ upon marriage by combing through her hair while blessing fortunes about birthing children. Tso will comb the hairy sculpture, and the union of two Cantonese girl’s hair will resist from being combed through.

Artist bio

Natalie is a Hong Kong-Australian emerging artist based on Cammeraygal and Gadigal country. She makes sculptures, installations and performances through bodily memories as a means to process and ultimately survive trauma. Hair, skin, flesh and bones are the metaphorical and material structures in which she makes and performs with. She activates intimate materials to create a new materiality called ‘skins’ – often performing with them and producing sculptures from their residues. She also explores acts of cleansing, hair-cutting and peeling to reclaim cleansing from the warfare of cultural erasure and assimilation, both in Hong Kong and Australia. Her practice aims to reshape intimate and political relationships by mediating internalised pain into a public space.

Since graduating from a Bachelor of Fine Arts with first class honours, she has been selected to exhibit and undertake a residency at Hatched, National Graduate Show 2021 at Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA). She received funding from Create NSW for this project as well as Traversed Differences, an Asian Feminist group show that was exhibited at Firstdraft, Sydney. She has also won the residency award at Sydney Fringe festival, been commissioned by Lane Cove council for a public installation and is the current caretaker of The Waiting Room Project.

Exhibition Statement

I Have Arrived at Yellow features new work from Natalie Quan Yau Tso in her first solo show since graduating honours. She investigates yellow as the layered colour of both racial identity in Australia and democracy in Hong Kong. The installations, sculptures and performances disrupt bodily boundaries to evoke slippages between political and personal trauma.

Flesh lies beneath hair and skin where trauma is hardly visible, yet dictates the body. In a video performance 2019, Tso eats 腸粉 (steamed rice rolls) while reciting from a Hong Kong history book about the 2019 protests, now banned in the city. The cheung fun passes in and out of her mouth as she stuffs, recites, spits and feeds herself, hinting at the weight of Hong Kong’s political trauma corroding in between bodies and societies. The muffled pronunciation evokes conflicts of self-censorship, protection from violence, grief, fear, and refusal to accept the erasure of Hong Kong all at once.

Skin is a contested site that wounds before imbuing into traumatic memory. Yellowing is a set of two painterly-bodily sculptures, a development from the material she created. Two yellow and white skins face each other, posing as her migrant and assimilated selves looking at, hidden yet ashamedly aware of each other’s presence. 

Hair is a witness to trauma who can be freed, the first of the body to touch the external. Tso crochets her and her partner’s hair together in A Knotted Wedding to symbolise their queer union, where she will then perform上頭Sheung Tau ceremony. The traditionally sexist ceremony is meant to signify the bride ‘becoming a woman’ upon marriage by combing through her hair while blessing fortunes about birthing children. Tso will comb the hairy sculpture, and the union of two Cantonese girl’s hair will resist from being combed through.