Greg Leong's artworks are deeply symbolic reflections of his relationship with Northern Tasmania but, until recently, they were locked away in storage.
In the midst of curating QVMAG's new hang, Visual Arts Curator Ashleigh Whatling said it was her assistant curator that first told her about Leong's work.
With a vision of diversifying the stories being told in QVMAG, Ms Whatling knew it was time for Leong's work - with themes of race, gender identity, and sexual orientation - to come out of storage and into the public consciousness once again.
"They're so punchy and so joyous, they were absolute treasures and joys to find in the collection," she said.
"That's what I wanted in the hang, to diversify the stories we were telling and Greg's work is a beautiful example of that diversity."
With a resume that spans more than four decades in Northern Tasmania's arts scene, Leong is undoubtedly a creative force - but it is his visual art that will form part of his legacy.
Born in Hong Kong in 1946 to an Australian Chinese mother and a Malaysian father, Leong studied in London before becoming ensconced in Northern Tasmania's arts scene upon emigrating in 1981.
After seven years as director of Tasmanian Regional Arts (then known as Tasmanian Arts Council), Leong decided to try his hand at becoming an artist in his own right.
"I had worked in arts management for a very long time and I thought it was now or never," he said.
"I just thought I had to do something different and fulfil that part of my life that I had repressed."
With inspiration from his own lived experience, Leong's work explored themes of race, gender identity and sexual orientation, and his relationship with Tasmania.
In the 1990s, Tasmania was the last state in Australia to decriminalise homosexuality and for Leong, living and working in a place that did not acknowledge his identity was the perfect fodder for artistic expression.
His piece, Turandot May Day Nuptial Robe Saint Rodney, was created in response to Rodney Croome's activism to decriminalise homosexuality in Tasmania and the subsequent High Court ruling.
Created in celebration of the historic occasion, the pink gown is decidedly camp and embroidered with the front cover headline of The Australian newspaper on the day of the ruling, 'Legal at Last'.
The idea about this work is it was a fun combination of pagan beliefs, pagan festivals, and pink being a gay colour," Leong said.
"The work references opera because it's Turandot's gown and because I'm Catholic there is monstrance but it's not religious - it's meant to be cabaret."
"It was a very joyful celebration, bringing together in a post-modern sort of way, different influences in my life.
"I was very happy making this."
However, after the laws against homosexuality were repealed, Leong found himself at a loss for a direction to funnel his creativity.
"I sat around twiddling my thumbs and thinking 'my goodness, I don't have anything to make art about anymore'," he said.
Thankfully for Leong, another source of inspiration was just around the corner with the 1997 federal election.
"Luckily for me, Pauline Hanson was elected into Parliament!" he said.
"And after that, I moved on to the bigger question of not being a 'white Australian'.
"So, I am very grateful to Pauline Hanson."
Leong said that "almost immediately" after Pauline Hanson was elected, he began to experience overt racism to a degree that he had never seen before.
"People wound wind down the windows of the car and yell at me to 'go back to where I can from'," he said.
"They would laugh and make racist gestures."
"It was awful, it really gave people permission to be racist openly."
Leong explored his relationship with place and the idea of what it means to be Australian in his Singing History Quilt.
Reflecting on Tasmania's history of Chinese culture, Leong takes the Australian quilting tradition of recording events of historical and personal significance.
With images of the gravestones of the Chinese tin miners of the 1800s and confronting letters to the editor to The Examiner and The Mercury from the era of the White Australia Policy - the Chinese Singing Quilt explores Tasmania's complicated history with Chinese immigration.
Each quilt in the Singing History Quilts series is presented as a tongue-in-cheek aid to instruct new Chinese Australians on how to become more 'Aussie' by introducing them to Australian songs sung in Cantonese.
For Leong, the work serves as an important reminder of Northern Tasmania's longstanding Chinese community.
"There are people who don't know that the Chinese community was integral to building Launceston's economy," Leong said.
"It's a forgotten history."
Reflecting on his work, Leong refers to them as "old pieces", but Ms Whatling believes that their significance is perfectly placed for the present day.
"He is a fabulous artist," she said
"While there is very serious content in both pieces- they're dealing with homophobia and racism-, they both have a sense of humour and whimsy to them that make it's accessible."
"It's meaningful and it's hyper-local. It's all about this place where he's from but it's also fun and engaging."
Leong's contemplation of identity and place continues to the present day, with his Tasmanian identity remaining deeply rooted in his Chinese ancestry.
And of course, with his own signature brand of playfulness.
"He sang Waltzing Matilda in Cantonese at the opening night of the exhibition," Ms Whatling said.
"And it brought down the house."
QVMAG is located at 2 Wellington Street, Launceston, and is free to enter daily from 10am-4pm.
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