Bao Guang | Roses Made From Water #poetrymonth

Throughout Poetry Month I am on the lookout for serendiptious poetic moments in my reading and my daily life. It’s rather surprising how and where a poem will suddenly present itself. Perhaps not surprising to find a poet or a poem in a book, but a recent visit to The White Rabbit Gallery threw up a beauty.

Most of the exhibitions run for about five months. The gallery then closes for a few weeks to pack up and prepare for the next event. The current exhibition is titled, I Loved You.

The time between messages, the length between reunions, the distance between lovers – our intimate lives are filled with spaces. Whether they be passionate or painful, absences punctuate our daily routines with reminders of a beloved when they are no longer there. From heady first meetings to bittersweet goodbyes, throughout it all, love haunts us like a ghost.

The gallery acquired Shi Yong | A Bunch of Happy Fantasies (2009) in 2015 which contains three sections of neon tubes as Chinese characters. For the current event, one section has been used to create a dramatic entrance that greets everyone as they arrive. For those of you who know the space, you will appreciate how wonderful it is to look down on this space, giving you another view of the installation, as you ascend or descend the main stairs.

Shi Yong | Detail of A Bunch of Happy Fantasies (2009)

The gallery website notes that the,

flickering neon tubes arranged in lines on the floor, [are] reflected in its surface. Each neon is an upside-down Chinese character; together, they spell out the words of a poem written by a friend of the artist [Bao Guang], ‘Roses Made from Water’. Written in a drug haze, the jumbled imagery and delusional thinking of the poem represents for Shi Yong the fact that glamour and beauty can mask an ugly underlying truth. The text can only be deciphered with great difficulty, symbolising the challenges we face in separating fantasy from reality.

There is a printed display sheet containing the full translation in Chinese and English, that reveals a truly jumbled, drug-dazed poem. The final line of the poem has been translated to say,

In the words of happiness redeem loneliness and the flames contained in the body of winter days.

The idea of winter days and loneliness resonated strongly with me at the time. I am not a winter person!

  • The White Rabbit Gallery is located in the Sydney suburb of Chippendale, within the Eora Nation of the Gadigal people.
  • This post was written in the area we now call the Blue Mountains within the Ngurra [country] of the Dharug and Gundungurra peoples.

4 thoughts on “Bao Guang | Roses Made From Water #poetrymonth

  1. I’m not a fan of reading writing done in a drug haze, it’s never as profound as the writer thought at the time, and often, as here, barely coherent. But the art work is striking.
    Last week I drove almost the whole length of the state (and the country) from Kununurra to Kalgoorlie and Perth, passing through dry season heat and bushfires up north only to be greeted the next day by winter storms. But still, I think I like all seasons.


    1. There was a reason I dodn’t attempt to provide a full transcript of this poem – it was gibberish really! The last sentence called my name though thanks to winter reference. When I was young, if I had to pick I would claim I was a winter person, then I spent nine months in London (from the end of winter, through a spring that felt like winter and the beginning of summer that still felt lilke winter, except I could finally stop wearing my big coat!!) Now I call myself a summer person. But if I get a brisk cold SUNNY winter’s day I often find myself enjoying the bracing nature of it, for a while, like we had in the mountains on Saturday.

      I’m hoping to catch up on your posts this evening after work. I have got rather behind – I read posts but don’t feel like I have time to comment thoughtfully, so tell myself I will come back later….and I forget or get caught up with other life stuff! You are in my thoughts though, and hoping that Psyche’s treatment is proceeding as smoothly as it can.


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