Guan Wei: Essence, Energy, Spirit

Soft Quiz with Guan Wei, please click HERE to view.

Exhibition e-Catalogue


The artworks for this exhibition were chosen by Guan Wei from his own personal collection. Guan Wei named the exhibition Essence, Energy, Spirit, which aptly captures the recurring themes of his art’s practice. Guan Wei is renowned for creating works that interlace imagery from his Chinese heritage, his life experience in Australia and his personal iconography, working across painting, sculpture and installation.

The exhibition is comprised of three distinct series of work. The series, Return to the Origin contextualises our human journey within the Universe. Images of the human figure are juxtaposed with symbols of the cosmos, deliberately drawn upon ceramics - a material that has been used by humans for thousands of years - to remind the viewer of their relatively brief time in history. Humans are portrayed as being part of nature, but a mere speck within it, when one considers how vast and old the Universe is.

The series, Longevity for Beginners explores themes of spiritual and physical balance via imagery of both external and internal views of the human body, drawn from traditional Chinese medicine and qi-gong, as well as his own personal symbolism. The underlying narrative of these paintings suggests the importance of the connection between the mind/spirit and body, and that being in balance with nature is essential for good health and general well-being.

The final series, which is Untitled, explores the relationship between the subconscious mind and its effect on our individual perception of our daily reality. Some of these works evoke emotional states of fear, uncertainty, anxiety, pressure, powerlessness and entrapment.  A prostrate figure is held precariously by a single thread to a more powerful being; demons and animals are depicted biting or nipping at a heel or eating away at what looks like a heart held in a hand. These paintings are interspersed with others which present a floating head on a bed of clouds, in what seems to be in a state meditation. This series of works suggest to the viewer, that to master their subconscious, spiritual practices and/or exercises can assist in transforming their experience to higher states of consciousness, such as peace, joy and bliss.

Ultimately these works by Guan Wei, remind us of the consequences of a fast paced, technology driven, western lifestyle, too full of angst, can be transcended, if we remember our essence, energy and spirit and how to nurture them.

Monica McMahon

Art Curator

Western Sydney University

Return to the Origion, 2014, by Guan Wei

Artist Biography

Guan Wei graduated from the Department of Fine Arts at Beijing Capital University in 1986. From 1989 to 1992, he completed art residencies at the University of Tasmania, Australian National University and Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney. In 1993, he immigrated to Australia. In 2008, Guan Wei set up a studio in Beijing. He now lives and works in both Beijing and Sydney.

Guan Wei has won several awards. His work has been held in major public and private collections including universities and corporate organisations. He has held more than 60 solo exhibitions internationally, and has been included in many important international contemporary exhibitions, such as the Shanghai Bienniale, China; the 10th Havana Biennial, Cuba; the Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art, Australia; the 3rd Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Australia; the Osaka Triennial, Japan; and the Gwangju Biennale, South Korea.

Guan Wei’s work has a profoundly felt (if implicitly ironic) moral dimension. In their complex symbolic form, his subjects potently embody current social and environmental dilemmas. They are equally the product of his rich cultural repertory of symbols and his informed socio-political awareness and art-historical knowledge.

Exhibition Opening Event

Date: Thursday, 24 October, 2019

Time: 6.00pm

Venue: Foyer of Building EA, Australia-China Institute for Arts and Culture, Parramatta South Campus, Western Sydney University, Corner of James Ruse Drive and Victoria Road, Rydalmere.

Opened by Professor Barney Glover AO
Vice-Chancellor and President
Western Sydney University

Guest Speaker
Dr Geoff Raby AO
Chair, ACIAC Advisory Board
Former Australian Ambassador to China

Photo Gallery of Exhibition Opening

guan wei opening images