Spinning the Fire Sutra I by Savanhdary Vongpoothorn


‘Spinning the Fire Sutra I’ 2022 by Savanhdary Vongpoothorn 
Located at Anzac Lane, Campbelltown

Savanhdary Vongpoothorn is a Laotian artist based in Canberra with strong connections to South West Sydney, having studied art at Western Sydney University then spending several years living at the Wedderburn artist community. Her artwork ‘Spinning the Fire Sutra I’ is located on the west wall of the Family and Community Services building on Anzac Lane. Spanning 70 metres long and 15 metres high, this ambitious artwork is visible from many parts of the city centre, peeking over the top of the Queen St skyline.   

‘Spinning the Fire Sutra I’ is inspired by the Ādittapariyāya Sutta (Pali, “Fire Sermon Discourse”), a discourse from the Pali Canon popularly known as the Fire Sermon. In this discourse, the Buddha preaches about achieving liberation from suffering through detachment from the five senses and mind. The motion of spinning fire is evoked by the artwork’s repeating pattern of black and white concentric circles that engulf the entire wall, accented by blue, red and yellow spinning perspex discs. The enormous scope of the artwork means that a viewer is always taking it in from an angle, creating space for different perspectives and interpretations.  

‘The Fire Sutra’ is a repeated motif throughout Vongpoothorn’s work, inspired by her family’s experience of being caught in the South Coast during the Black Summer bushfires of 2019/2020. Compounded with the Covid-19 lockdowns that soon followed, Vongpoothorn found herself processing these traumas through the lens of the Fire Sutra. Reflecting on the often apocalyptic connotations of fire, she devised artwork concepts that explore the fraught nature of the task of reassembling ourselves from that very strange time and place in history.

Despite its serious subject matter, the bright and eccentric ‘Spinning the Fire Sutra I’ elicits a curious and optimistic response from viewers. Vongpoothorn hopes that the artwork will offer a site of reflection, where people will stop for a moment and take time to contemplate cycles of movement, destruction, clarity and rebirth in their own lives.  

Commissioned by Campbelltown City Council, 2022. With special thanks to Skagias Investments. Funded by NSW Government CBD Revitalisation Fund.

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