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Winner: Sir John Sulman Prize 2015

Jason Phu

I was at yum cha when in rolled the three severed heads of Buddha: Fear, Malice and Death
Chinese ink on paper
69 x 137 cm unframed; 88 x 155 cm framed
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I hadn’t arranged to meet them. They simply rolled onto my table whilst knocking everything over. Fear said, ‘Where’s the toilet?’ Malice said, ‘Do it in the fish tank.’ Death said, ‘Don’t slip on a urinal cake.’

A lady with a food cart came around. Fear said, ‘有糯米鸡吗?’ Malice said, ‘来个凤爪’. Death said, ‘我要三碗豆腐花’.

I stopped a waiter to ask for a glass of tap water. Fear said, ‘I really need to pee now.’ Malice, ‘I’ll have a coke.’ Death said nothing.

- Jason Phu, 2015

The work is understated yet very masterful in the beautiful and sometimes strident way it uses line and watercolour. There is a genuine humour which comes from a very deep place ‒ telling a story of transitions between one culture to another. The humour is quirkily Australian larrikin and cheeky Chinese, for instance in the comical juxtaposition of the ashtray next to the chopstick and the chunky, unglamorous and affectionate painting of the heads.

- Lindy Lee, Sulman Prize 2015 judge