Miniature Cosmos

Kristel Smits and Cindy Yuen-Zhe Chen

Featuring bonsai created by Thor Beowulf

Curated by Kathleen Linn

5 September – 20 September 2014

Creating order out of disorder is something that has fascinated artists, scholars and musicians for thousands of years across different cultures. The garden as a way of creating order and beauty in our surrounds is manifested in different ways around the world, reflecting the larger aesthetic and cultural concerns of a society. The strict lines and formalism of many European gardens contrast with Chinese and Japanese ideas that allow for meandering paths, a harmony with natural shapes, the discovery of hidden views or sparse surrounds that intend to cultivate spaces of the mind rather than living plants.

For Cindy Yuen-Zhe Chen and Kristel Smits aspects of Chinese and Japanese gardens have provided a source of inspiration as well as a conceptual path of enquiry in their work. Miniature Cosmos intends to delve a little deeper into this and other aspects of these two emerging artists’ practices.


Artist Profiles and Works

Kristel Smits


Maple Magic II -for Airspace website SmitsKristel Smits, Maple Magic II


Kristel Smits’ mixed-media works on paper draw strongly on childhood experiences and personal interpretations of place. Her works in Miniature Cosmos are inspired by visits to Japanese gardens, both in the Sydney suburb of Auburn and in the Netherlands (The Hague), on her recent travels. Through a delicate and meticulous working process that she has been developing since 2007, her series of sepia-toned drawings are strongly evocative of memory while also possessing a mysterious, dream-like element. They contrast with her more highly coloured series of drawings, which take inspiration from botanical studies to create detailed renderings of individual plants, or carefully chosen garden views, set against dense Dutch woodlands. Her drawings will be exhibited alongside bonsai specimens, adding to the depth perceptions within the work.

 Kristel Smits Artist Statement
Stretching and extending traditional painting and drawing techniques is something that holds a strong interest for me. As an artist and art conservator, I have been able to study and absorb the methods and materials of a variety of artists to gain knowledge and inspiration for my work. Conservation processes can also sometimes provide artistic inspiration and ideas. These mixed media drawings represent an exciting new technique that I have been developing over several years, since 2007. Termed ‘pellicular membrane drawings’, the technique lends the work an emphasised sense of depth and gives the surface an ambiguous quality that I enjoy.

I first developed and used this process on a painting field trip to the outback in 2007. The unfamiliar and overwhelming outback landscape has inspired me to new methods of working on more than one occasion. I found that this process, which uses drafting paper, was able to capture the sense of distance presented by the vast landscape and the varying levels of detail observed within the land. Since then I have adapted the technique several times to achieve different effects in my work, culminating in the process presented here.

The sepia toned drawings, representing the Japanese Garden in Auburn, are suggestive of old sepia photographs. Like old photographs, areas of the drawing appear washed out, other areas are emphasised. The garden was a site of several family visits as I was growing up. Visiting it once again in 2011 triggered old, forgotten memories and the drawings are intended to reflect this experience of stepping back in time.

The brightly coloured drawings on the opposite wall represent the Japanese Garden in the Hague (Netherlands). They are intended to reflect a sense of magical wonder. Stumbling upon the garden by chance during a walk in the woods, its vibrant beauty was completely unanticipated. I was struck by the strong visual contrast between the diminutive plants with twisted branches and flaming autumn colours, and the vertical grandeur of the Dutch woodland backdrop. Open only six weeks in the year, the garden maintains a sense of seclusion, of being untouched. The drawings are further inspired by botanical paintings, focusing on detailed observation and rendering of the characterful plants to capture the other worldly effect of this very special garden.

Kristel Smits, Japanese Garden Tableau blog
Kristel Smits, Japanese Garden Tableau, 2014. Mixed media on paper, 60 x 84cm. Image credit: Kristel Smits.

Kristel Smits, Golden Delight, blog
Kristel Smits, Golden Delight, 2013. Mixed media on paper, 60 x 84cm. Photo credit: Kristel Smits.

Kristel Smits, Maple Magic blog
Kristel Smits, Maple Magic, 2013. Mixed media on paper, 60 x 84cm. Photo credit: Kristel Smits.

Kristel Smits, Remember my Name blog
Kristel Smits, Remember My Name, 2012. Mixed media on paper, 60 x 84cm. Photo credit: Kristel Smits.

Kristel Smits

Smit Art Restoration

Cindy Yuen-Zhe Chen

A Drawn Out Moment Detail Web ChenCindy Yuen-Zhe Chen, A Drawn Out Moment (detail)


Cindy Yuen-Zhe Chen’s drawings have their origins in invisible phenomena. Her works form a personal response to natural sounds such as bird calls, the distant rumble of traffic or insect sounds observed at specific times of day. Her work explores the inner line of things that have no form. Taking Japanese ink on Chinese paper as her primary working tools, her drawings can be understood as a form of abstract musical graphic notation. For the opening night of Miniature Cosmos Cindy will, for the first time, be working with two performance artists – Kate Brown and Alison Bennett. They will create a performance-based dialogue with Cindy’s ink drawings, returning the work once again to the aural realm.

Call 555am blog
Cindy Yuen-Zhe Chen, Call 5:55am, 2014. Ink and pencil on Wenzhou paper, 46 x 90cm. Photo credit: Cindy Yuen-Zhe Chen and Taiyo Totsuka.

Response 555am blog
Cindy Yuen-Zhe Chen, Response 5:55am, 2014. Ink and pencil on Wenzhou paper, 46 x 90cm. Photo credit: Cindy Yuen-Zhe Chen and Taiyo Totsuka.

Cindy Yuen-Zhe Chen is represented by Art Atrium

Miniature Cosmos features bonsai created by Thor Beowulf of the Bonsai Design Studio in Woollahra. We welcome you to attend a Bonsai Demonstration that will take place at Airspace Projects on Saturday 13 September at 2.00pm.

Bonsai created by Thor Beowulf will be for sale throughout the exhibition. They will be held in the gallery space on a rotational basis.

BonsaiDemoFlyerBonsai Design Studio Business Cards - 9-10-13

Exhibition is open for viewing from 11.00am Friday 5 September and runs to 5.00pm Saturday 20 September.