A virtuosity of Indonesian artisans and a profound complexity of meanings is woven into traditional textiles and painted on bark-cloth and cotton. ‘Abstract’ motives and a multitude of mythological characters from a remote antiquity mingle with the folk heroes, the upheavals of the colonial era and modernity.

Indonesian textiles in the Pacific collection
Siobhan Campbell, Kim McKay, Katrina Cashman and John Yu inspecting Balinese painting in the Pacific Collection Stores 31 July 2014. Image: Stan Florek
© Australian Museum

Who wants to know, and who cares? Kim McKay, the Director of the Australian Museum, does!

On 31 July Kim hosted our special guests Dr John Yu and Katrina Cashman in viewing Indonesian textiles and Balinese paintings in our Collection, guided by Dr Siobhan Campbell, an astute and enthusiastic student of Indonesian art and culture.

Dr John Yu, now retired, is a distinguished paediatrician, who was the Chief Executive Officer of the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children in Camperdown and a strong advocate of relocating it to a new complex built in Westmead in 1995. Dr Yu served as the Chancellor of the University of New South Wales (2000-2005). As an expert on the decorative arts of Southeast Asia, he was a Trustee associated with the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Musica Viva Australia, the Penrith Regional Gallery and the Powerhouse Museum. Dr Yu was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia in 1989 and named Australian of the Year in 1996. In 2001 he was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia.

Katrina Cashman is the Assistant Director and Senior Curator at Mosman Art Gallery, which recently staged a superb exhibition of Indonesian textiles from Dr Yu’s outstanding private collection. This show, cherished by the public, was curated by Siobhan Campbell who also prepared a strikingly handsome and informative catalogue.

Fotoware Image
Image: -
© Australian Museum

I wish to thank John Yu and Katrina Cashman for the convivial company during their visit; Kim Mackay for hosting us with energy and flair; and Siobhan Campbell for guiding us through the intricacies of woven and painted treasures.

I have an impression we all thought, in our own ways: this Collection should be brought to the public, to our audience, communities, students and art enthusiasts. Let’s share the delight.