Drops Of Compassion 2005

The work Drops of Compassion was commissioned for the exhibition Buddha in Suburbia- Greater Western Sydney. This exhibition was a Casula Powerhouse project held at the Liverpool Regional Gallery. It included the work of six artists responding to Buddhism in Western Sydney. In creating this work I paid many visits to the ordinary and extraordinary Buddhist temples in Western Sydney, and the piece is composed of over 80 photographs gathered during these visits.

The exhibition was curated by Cuong Phu Le and Karen Greenhalgh, who said in their catalogue essay:

The illustrative photographic work of Cath Barcan aims to redress any inclination that Buddhism in Greater Western Sydney fits a generic model. The collage of assembled images succinctly visualises the individual and collective experiences of Buddhism. Finding inspiration in the everyday activities and loving activities of temple culture, Barcan was motivated to capture the particular and discreet characteristics of individual temples embodied in the personal touches. This in turn enables the viewer to meet the Buddhist communities on familiar ground.

-Cuong Phu Le and Karen Greenhalgh, from the essay Enriching Suburbia, from the catalogue Buddha in Suburbia, Greater Western Sydney, 2005.

Drops of Compassion was included in the 2007 Phoenix Prize for Spiritual Art, at the Australian National University.

The following text is my artist statement from Buddha in Suburbia- Greater Western Sydney catalogue.

The images in this work describe some of the many Buddhist temples in the Western Sydney Region. Each temple has its own particular attractions and tells its own powerful visual story in the suburban landscape. Western Sydney has an impressive array of Buddhist temples ranging from awe-inspiring grand structures to humble suburban house temples. The region boasts the largest temple of its type (outside its country of origin) in the Southern Hemisphere, an extraordinary  structure in the middle of the Western Suburbs. At the other end of the spectrum, but equally as impressive, is the house temple with homemade shrine built (right on top of the suburban barbeque) with limitless love and almost as much cement.

An image of a globe recurs in my work. This globe, found on a shrine in one of the house temples, acts as a lens to focus, invert and depict a little universe. The Buddha is enclosed with a colourbond fence, a pagoda, telegraph poles and a block of suburban flats. A jewel-like image in the heart of Cabramatta!

The work depicts some of the saturated and distinctive ornamentation of Buddhist temple culture. I have tried to reflect both the flamboyance and the order that the temples embody. The use of lights, turf and gladeoli as part of the installation is homage to the temples, their locations, and the bridge they create between cultures and between ideas of heaven and earth.

Cath Barcan, 2005