Guan Wei is a storyteller. Throughout his more than 30-year art practice, his distinctive style has combined Australian and Chinese influences to weave profound narratives of loss, migration, identity, colonisation, and place. Working across painting, sculpture and installation, he merges eastern and western philosophies, art histories, eras and empires, signs and symbols, to create imaginary cross-cultural realms that explore contemporary issues and hopes for a better world.
Guan Wei’s latest exhibition at ARC ONE Gallery presents three bodies of work: "Chivalry", a suite of paintings laden with philosophical meaning; "Mascot", playful bronze sculptures depicting humorously anthropomorphised mythical creatures; and the monumental "Treasure Hunt", a major new tapestry woven by the Australian Tapestry Workshop.
In Chivalry, Guan Wei examines ideas of honour and virtue through a series of theatrical tableaux inspired by the Middle Ages. “I have been seeking new directions in my painting for many years”, says the artist, “exploring new possibilities and making breakthroughs from my existing style toward new territory. Quite unexpectedly, reading and learning about the knights of the Middle Ages was a turning point in me. I was mesmerised by their stories.” Utilising the flowing rhythm of Eastern ink painting, calligraphy, and sketching, Guan Wei brings the realm of medieval fantasy to life. Noble jousts, sword-fights, romantic adventures, and heroic gestures, play out across his canvases evoking ideals and values that were once used to navigate lives. In the face of increasing alienation, digitalisation, virtual reality, and global change, "Chivalry" invites us to reflect on our humanity.
Woven by Chris Cochius, Pamela Joyce, Jennifer Sharpe and Cheryl Thornton from the Australian Tapestry Workshop, "Treasure Hunt" is inspired by a large painted mural from Guan Wei’s exhibition "Other Histories" at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney in 2006. Drawing on Chinese and European mythologies, the work considers ‘other’ histories and the intersection of Indigenous and colonial cultural narratives. Through the depiction of the oceans, islands and desert interiors, Guan Wei references navigation, exploration, migration and the influence of, and response to, globalisation.