Nathan Beard

White Gilt 2.0 is an exhibition by Nathan Beard which unpacks the cultural associations and idiosyncrasies of various hand gestures in traditional Thai culture, filtering them a unique set of cultural anxieties that influence Beard’s approach to his Thai-Australian heritage.

The exhibition comprises of an installation of photographs and sculptures that take the symbolism and associations of the wai as a source of inspiration. The wai is a prayer-like gesture where your hands are clasped in front of you, and as a customary greeting in Thailand has roots dating back to the 12th Century as a method of indicating that you weren’t armed. Complicating this body of work is a tangle of personal associations between the artist and the wai - namely a sense of cultural inauthenticity which has been harboured through its ritualised or reluctant performance in social and familial contexts. Inextricably tied to this exhibition is an attempt by the artist to negotiate and destabilise the perspective of their own whiteness within their autobiographically charged practice.

Given the historically hybrid and shifting nature of an ‘authentic’ Thai culture, Beard’s work seeks creative potential in attempting to define an understanding of what ‘Thainess’ entails, asking what it means to inherit a nuanced relationship to a culture which you are also inherently at a distance from. White Gilt 2.0 engages the complexities of cultural performance through a range of visually extravagant influences. These include images interpreting the symbolism of extended hand positions in traditional Thai dance, found family photos, and the gestures of Thai artefacts encountered in museum archives.

Artist Biography:

Nathan Beard (b.1987) is Perth-based interdisciplinary artist whose practice draws upon his Thai-Australian heritage in order to unpack the influences of culture, memory and biography. Using archives of imagery from various archives sources including museum catalogues, the internet, and family photo albums, Beard aims to playfully deconstruct an understanding of his own “Thainess” as positioned in a Western cultural context. His work asks what it means to search for and create an authentic sense of identity out of a connection to intimate, personal histories and cultural heritage.

Beard holds a Bachelor of Arts (Art) with First Class Honours from Curtin University. Recent exhibitions include White Gilt, Cool Change Contemporary, WA, (2019), A dense intimacy, Bus Projects, VIC (2019), Siamese Smize, Turner Galleries, WA (2018), Transcendence, Firstdraft, NSW (2018) and WA Focus: Nathan Beard, Art Gallery of Western Australia, WA (2017). In 2017 Beard was selected for the 4A Beijing Studio Program, shortlisted as a finalist for the John Stringer Prize, and Highly Commended as a finalist in the Fremantle Art Centre Print Award. In 2021 Beard will be undertaking the Australia Council residency at ACME Studios in London.

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