Encounters across dialogic cross-cultural collaborative painting

Author Identifier

Harrison Waed See


Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Arts and Humanities

First Supervisor

Lyndall Adams

Second Supervisor

Clive Barstow


With a focus on studio painting, this PhD research explores collaboration as a mode of cultural exchange and dialogue and an intervention strategy regarding the limits of solo practice. This practice-led inquiry was motivated by experiences of cultural exchange and dialogue during earlier honours research undertaken in mainland China. While living, studying and painting in Shanghai, cross-cultural encounters prompted a curiosity for unfamiliar ideas, perspectives and practices while simultaneously provoking reflections on familiar ideas, perspectives and practices. This was an insightful experience that shifted both my notions of practice and culture. To emulate these insights, this doctoral research planned to collaborate with artists of Southeast Asia; however, with the advent of COVID-19, alternative collaborative paradigms emerged to explore.

Practice-led research was the discovery-led methodology used for this inquiry, alongside studio methods including reflexivity, journaling, studio practice and collaboration. Collaboration was dialogic, predominately informed by a synthesis between Charles Green’s (2001) notion of third hand and Mikhail Bakhtin’s (1981) dialogics. Through this synthesis, dialogic collaboration embraced difference in terms of relativity, not opposition. A curiosity towards plurality was facilitated that understood divergence as a serendipitous source of creativity. Dialogic collaboration was undertaken with contemporary artists from a range of cultural backgrounds, locations and creative disciplines. In adapting to COVID-19, international collaboration utilised postage, while Perth-based artists exchanged artworks locally. As restrictions eased, face-to-face collaboration also became possible. Informed by such collaborations, the final series of paintings titled Far-Away Island was developed.

Although not all collaborations were successful creatively, each offered its own unique insights. Collaboration proved to disrupt and expand familiar ways of thinking and making in the studio. Dialogic collaboration was also an effective means of exchanging cultural perspectives and ideas within a space that embraced dissensus. Exchanges within this space meant adopting a more pluralistic understanding of storytelling elements (tropes, themes, characters, archetypes and iconographies). Further, a renegotiation of storytelling itself occurred where narratives focused on the intersubjectivity and interconnectedness between elements rather than the elements themselves. It was also through this renegotiation of storytelling that the influence of videogames was acknowledged, explored and integrated into studio painting. Ultimately, dialogic collaboration proved an appropriate means of encountering cultural differences and a valuable source of self-reflection.

The implications of the research extend beyond studio practice and into the broader discourse around cultural exchange. With the world’s increasing cultural and political tensions, there is an emerging need for more nuanced approaches to cross-cultural exchange through which art can offer unique and alternative ways of thinking and working. Ways that accept and embrace the inevitability of untranslatable and incommensurable perspectives, practices and ideas intrinsic to cross-cultural spaces. Dialogic collaboration proved to be one such approach that acknowledges the complexities of cross-cultural exchange and accepts the potential for untranslatability and incommensurability.

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