When Australian-born artist and textile designer Chris Chun was growing up in Australia the Lunar New Year simply meant "lots of cash and great food."
"I would have loved to have had an exhibition like this when I was a kid", he said.
The "exhibition like this" that Chun was referring to is an exhibition at the Chinese Museum in Melbourne that reveals the stories and history behind this significant cultural festival - the mythology, symbolism, superstition, taboo, family traditions, ritual and celebration.
Chun has created especially for this exhibition a striking new collection of 12 Lunar New Year paintings depicting each of the Chinese Zodiac animals. The paintings feature his signature style of combining Asian and Western motifs, reflecting his own Australian Chinese heritage, and taking inspiration from the exquisite embroideries found on court robes from the Qing Dynasty
Chun is particularly known both in Australia and overseas for his work in contemporary chinoiserie, a distinctly modern twist on traditional Chinese art that combines vibrant colour and pattern with his love of nature and the environment. His art - which he tongue-in-cheek refers to as "chunoiserie" - also incorporates elements of fengshui to create harmony, joy and positive energy to everyone who looks at them.
As you move through The Lucky Rabbit exhibition you can also explore other sections:
Introduction: the origins and history of Chinese New Year, around the world and in Melbourne.
Customs and Traditions: Learn the rules of what you can and can't do in order to maximise prosperity and wealth.
Food and Celebration: Perhaps the most enjoyable part of Chinese New Year is dining with loved ones, but even the food served has special meaning.
The Chinese Zodiac: Do you know your Chinese Zodiac animal sign? Find out and learn your characteristics and fortune.
Because the Year of the Rabbit is about hope for the future an important part of the exhibition is the Wishing Tree where you write your own wish for a happy and prosperous 2023 on a piece of paper and tie it to the tree.
The Lunar New Year is one of the most important dates on the global calendar and is celebrated by a quarter of the world's population, or more than two billion people around the world.
The museum's chief executive officer, Mark Wang, said the exhibition was a valuable and engaging way to teach children about their Chinese heritage and would also serve to inform and educate other Australians about multiculturalism.
There are 1.4 million people of Chinese ancestry living in Australia today, around five per cent of the country's population. "Forty per cent of them have come in the last 15 years", Mr Wang said.
Lucky Rabbit - A Celebration of Chinese New Year is on until March 14 at the Level 1 Gallery, Museum of Chinese Australian History 22 Cohen Place, Melbourne (enter via Little Bourke Street or via Lonsdale Street).
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