Christian Thompson reflects on ‘New Gold Mountain’ and two decades of artistic trailblazing.

'Double Happiness' 2021, Christian Thompson

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.

Dr Christian Thompson, AO

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. 

Dr. Christian Thompson, AO
'New Gold Mountain' (Xin Jun Shan) 2021, Christian Thompson

CC: How long have you been working with Yavuz Gallery, and how did this relationship come to life?

CT: I signed with Yavuz Gallery quite recently, about three or four months ago. The gallery is based in Singapore and Sydney, and they have a strong focus on Southeast Asian art.  When I signed with them, I started thinking a lot more about my Chinese heritage, and I feel like my grandmother actually led me to them. It was the right fit; the vibe was just there. 

After living in Europe for ten years and establishing myself in the UK and the Netherlands, I’ve come back to Australia. The Asia Pacific art market is now a really exciting prospect for me to further pursue with my work in this context, especially since I have personal connections to it as well.  It’s a new dynamic and a really exciting chapter for me. There are some really interesting conversations happening in the region.

CC: In what ways has your artistic identity evolved over the last ten years?

CT: My work has changed a lot, but that’s just a natural evolution that comes from being around for over 20+ years. You can see the development of my artistic ideas as documented in my practice. 

Every body of work is moving in a particular direction, and it’s always been evolving. It has more recently landed in this flower wall motif. I don’t think I could’ve arrived here any sooner. It had to come out of the experience of living out and studying abroad, it was like the reward for taking that risk as an artist and challenging myself with new experiences and environments. 

You have to live some life in order to say something unique. 


Christian Thompson at Collingwood studio 2021

CC: What do you perceive to be your artistic legacy?

CT: My practice has really influenced the zeitgeist in Australia for someone who is still relatively young.  I feel it has influenced the culture, and I’m now seeing my work reflected back at me in the work of the next generation.

I feel like I’ve not only been around for 21 years, but I’ve managed to stay relevant for that time, and I’ve kept pushing the envelope artistically and culturally as my work has continued to evolve stylistically and thematically. 

I was one of the first two Indigenous Australians to graduate with a doctorate from Oxford University in the UK, and this is really significant to me. I felt I was carrying the hopes of my community with me, and I had to find my way in a completely foreign and academically rigorous environment. I felt an immense sense of pride when I achieved my Ph.D. in Philosophy (Fine Art). People have reflected on how this inspired them to pursue their own artistic ambitions abroad. 

CC: And lastly, what is something that most people don’t know about Christian Thompson. 

CT: I’m actually a pretty reclusive person. Being in my own work is challenging for me at times. There are times when I want to be more visible and times I don’t want to be visible at all. Overcoming that shyness has been challenging for me, even within my own practice. This ties into the performativity of my work, which has helped me grow as both an artist and a person.

New Gold Mountain is showing virtually at Yavuz Gallery until October 9, 2021