Sydney Chinese New Year is the largest Lunar New Year celebration outside of mainland China. It’s been going for over a decade now and has acquired a Sydney identity. To celebrate, local designer Danling Xiao, who is originally from China, has fittingly created an artwork inspired by the residents of Potts Point.
Check out Archie the Spitz at top of this page, who is one of the doggies appearing in Xiao’s Year of the Dog festival artwork and go behind-the-scenes of the photo shoot (below). Also, the artist shares her ideas for the Sydney Chinese New Year festival artwork and her best memories of Lunar New Year growing up.
Could you talk about the idea for your artwork for the event? What was your inspiration for it?
I had a few questions before I started coming up with ideas for the artwork. How can I make Chinese New Year in Sydney reflect the festival in China? How can I make it fun, engaging and light-hearted? I thought of the Snapchat puppy filter, but it wasn’t until I walked along Macleay Street in Potts Point that I considered taking portraits of dogs dressed up in Chinese New Year outfits.
I’d say Macleay Street is an inspiration. I would go down there to see the dogs running up and down the street. It’s really a runway for dogs and their owners, especially on the weekend!
My other inspiration is definitely my memory of the glamorous Chinese New Year from my childhood.
What has been your process in developing the artwork?
The development of the concept was done naturally by the dogs and their owners. It was surprising to see how they all turned out to have such diverse personalities and charms. I am very thankful to have been able to assemble such a wonderful team without a plan.
Everyone just turned up through my social media call-out and word of mouth. But I did have to hang out for 2 hours at the park to find Archie (the Japanese Spitz), and travelled as far as Caringbah for Joy (the Schnauzer), to make sure everyone was happy to wear the costume.
Most importantly, the result wouldn’t be possible without my photography master, Warren Macris from High Res Studio. He provided tricks and treats for dogs and incredible skills and craftsmanship.
How does this project relate to your other work?
The eye-catching and engaging quality in the work is something I’ve been pursuing in the other work I do. How do I, as a creative thinker and designer, communicate with my audience in the midst of all the noise? From every project I would always learn something and improve my understanding of audiences’ behaviour and my role in our visual culture.
The other relevance is my animal rights advocacy for sustainable living through Mundane Matters. This includes many things, from social issues like animal protection and preservation, to the smaller actions we could all take, like moving towards a plant-based diet. Every year we have hundreds of thousands of domestic animals looking for a home. It’s important that we are reminded of the joy they bring us (even in an internet meme!) and to give back when we can.
Could you tell us about what Chinese New Year means to you?
Chinese New Year to me is the real start of the year. We have a tradition of visiting family, friends and clients before the year ends. It’s a hectic period of time. When I was growing up in Shantou, Guang Dong, my dad had a manufacturing business making high precision motors. When he was working, I would sometimes come along and we’d run around the city visiting people. I also remember going to the flower markets late Chinese New Year eve to scout cheaper plants for the new year. I wasn’t sure if dad liked it, but I definitely enjoyed it.
After 13 years living in Sydney, I still feel strange having the magnificent start of the year on 1 January, and waiting for my ‘real’ start of the year for more than a month. Once Chinese New Year kicks in, I feel the new year has finally arrived. I don’t buy new clothes on this special day anymore, but as a kid I used to look forward to wearing my new clothes and seeing my parents and everyone dressed up – even the dogs! It was very glamorous to me.