CC: Can you share some insights into key themes you have explored in your new body of work New Gold Mountain?
CT: In this body of work, I’m making references to my Southern Chinese heritage, my grandmother’s heritage. New Gold Mountain is actually what the first wave of Chinese immigrants called the Gold Rush – taken from the name of the first gold rush in California USA called Gold Mountain.
There are two flower walls in the exhibition which have become a big part of my artistic identity. In these works, I’ve used a lot more specific Southern Chinese flowers to reference my Chinese-Australian heritage. One flower wall is called New Gold Mountain (Xin Jin Shan), and the other is called Double Happiness.
There is also a sound work in the show called Burdi Burdi (Fire Fire). This came out of the headspace I was in during lockdown. I went back to my really formative years and I started thinking about my life between the ages of say, 13 to 18. I was reflecting on all the things I used to watch at that age, and I re-watched shows like Twin Peaks from that period. The video is also just about my general unease about the state of the world, I think we’re all feeling a bit like this, or we have at some point.
CC: Where did the title for Double Happiness come from?
CT: I was tossing up between two titles one was ‘Chinese Fashion’ which is a name for a family recipe and basically like an old-school Chow Mein and Double Happiness. One day, I was walking down the street when I looked down at the ground and there was a packet of cigarettes – a blue packet with the words ‘Double Happiness’ written across the packet! I was thinking about what title would be best, and at that exact moment, perfectly composed on the ground… I took a photo and posted it on my Instagram (@ChristianThompsonArtist).
CC: What creative or personal value have you extracted from lockdown?
CT: In a weird way, while we’re all disconnected from each other, we have been able to reconnect with ourselves. I have been reflecting on 21 years of my work and have used the time to fortify my own creative voice and fire again. There’s a lot of references to fire in New Gold Mountain; a metaphor for my personal regeneration experience I’ve had over the past 12 to 18 months. I’m an empath and I tend to absorb everything that’s going on around me, and that naturally comes out in my work.
CC: How do the flower walls in New Gold Mountain speak to the idea of hope, specifically through a reconnection with nature?
CT: The flower walls are a direct reflection of my upbringing with a strong connection to the natural world, and that is Aboriginal culture. It’s interesting because I used to wear the flowers and now it seems like the flowers ‘wear’ me. I’m inside this floral constellation.
I feel like these two flower walls also reflect on the connection I had with my grandmother. I was very close to her, and I’ve felt her presence around me in a very palpable way. I feel like she has been guiding me through this creative process.