In September 1978 Sally Gray travelled to the People’s Republic of China on ‘The First Australian Women’s Study Tour of China’. Twenty years later, as a curator and artist, she re-interrogated the ideas and beliefs she and the, predominantly left-wing and feminist, visitors had brought to their 1978 experience of China. In 1998 she interviewed the women who had undertaken the study tour and selected photographs taken on the trip for their potential political and emotional freight. She then art-directed their digital manipulation by Sydney artist Astrid Spielman. The resulting images in highly saturated colour emulate Chinese Communist political posters and highlight utopian political imaginings. In the exhibition, the images were juxtaposed with text from China scholars raising awkward questions and providing no answers.
The photographs … glowed with a garish, Chinese bedspread-inspired palette of flushed pinks and radical reds, virulent greens and utopian blues. They … were engaged in a puzzled, sometimes witty and occasionally angry dialogue with each other. Manipulated in this way, the images, offset by text and video, were transformed into the documentation of a mirage, an illusion, a wishful thought – a romance.
Linda Jaivin (2000) “China ’78 A Political Romance”, Art and Australia, Vol 37 No 3 2000 pp 361-362