[NEW] Individual and Universal: the World We Share

The Institute for Australian and Chinese Arts and Culture (IAC) at Western Sydney University is currently presenting its first art exhibition of 2024 entitled Individual and Universal: The World We Share featuring Ning Chen, Pamela See and Nelson Nghe, three distinctive Asian Australian artists of different styles, working in different mediums. What connects them is that they all draw on their cultural history and heritage in pursuit of their social, cultural and artistic identities as a migrant Australian and first-generation Australians of migrant parents. Their lived experiences have enabled them to develop their individual voices and styles, whilst exploring the interconnected aspects of the world we live in.

In this exhibition you will see Ning Chen, a Shanghai-born artist who moved to Australia in 1989, reinventing traditional Chinese ink on paper painting in a bold and subtle way by incorporating Western contemporary elements in his visual presentation of the complexities of human nature. Pamela See, a Brisbane-born Australian of Malaysian Chinese parents, practices a contemporary form of papercutting based on a tradition originating in the Song Dynasty in China to investigate the impact of migration on the Australian cultural landscape. Her copper works, like her paper cut-outs, are also highly symbolic, suggesting the change migrants catalyse in the environments they enter. Nelson Nghe, a Western Sydney-born child of refugees and migrants of Vietnamese and Cambodian Chinese heritage, with his vibrant paintings, unique mixed media assemblages and text-based works, challenges hard-to-face issues such as stigma and shame attached to gambling, a pursuit particularly designed to attract newly arrived migrants of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Together, these three artists present a brilliant insight into the individual and universal elements at play in the world we share.

We hope you will get a chance to visit this inspiring and thought-provoking exhibition that is showing until 16th May.

Exhibition Details

Date: 28 February to 16 May 2024

Venue: Institute for Australian and Chinese Arts and Culture Gallery, Ground Floor, Building EA, Parramatta South Campus, Western Sydney University. 171 Victoria Road, Parramatta.

Gallery Opening Hours: Monday – Friday (9.30am – 5.00pm)

Contact: Yanni Liu, email: yanni.liu@westernsydney.edu.au


Pamela SeePamela

Dr Pamela See (Xue Mei-Ling) is an Australian visual artist who practises a contemporary form of papercutting. Her paternal grandfather left China in the early 1930s, and her father, in turn, emigrated from Malaysia in the early 1960s. Born in Brisbane in 1979, Pamela grew up in South East Queensland during the 1980s.

Pamela has been exhibiting since the late 1990s in museums and galleries, including the National Gallery of Australia, Arteriet in Norway, the Museo Gustavo de Maeztu in Spain, the Qing Tong Museum in China and the International Studio and Curatorial Program in the US.

Her artworks are included in collections housed in The Australian War Memorial in Canberra, The National Gallery of Australia, The National Portrait Gallery of Australia, The Art Gallery of South Australia in Adelaide, the Hua Xia Papercutting Museum in Changsha, Swire Properties in Beijing and Chinachem in Hong Kong.

She was invited to contribute to a young and emerging artist program, Starter Space, at the Queensland Art Gallery in the early 2000s. This was proceeded by inclusion in the national touring exhibition Echoes of Home, instigated by the Museum of Brisbane.  During this decade, she also developed her skills through residencies in China and the US, funded by the Australia China Council, Australia Council for the Arts and the Brisbane City Council. During the late 2000s her work featured in solo exhibitions in many regional galleries across Australia, including Noosa, Goulburn and Gympie. Her work was also featured in a solo exhibition at the Museum of Chinese and Australian History in Melbourne in 2019 and in a group show So Fine at the National Portrait Gallery and Sydney Lunar Festival in 2018. Her most recent solo exhibition, …By Celestials, was shownat the SOL Gallery in Melbourne in January 2024. Pamela has also created various site-specific installations both across Australia and in New York and Beijing. Her most recent installation, Hopping Under the Same Moon, was created for the CWS Moon Festival at the Chung Wah Temple in Darwin in 2023.

Dr Pamela See holds a Bachelor of Visual Arts and a Doctor of Philosophy in Fine Arts from Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, and a Master of Business and a Master of Education from Queensland University of Technology.

Investigating the impact of migration on the Australian cultural landscape has been a primary focus of her work.

Artist Statement

I was born in Australia, but my maternal grandparents are from Guangdong Province in China where Foshan papercutting is the endemic style. Although it dates back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279), during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) papercutting artisans in this region began applying their techniques to thin foils of copper. In this exhibition I will be showing works in both mediums.

Most of my works investigate issues associated with migrant settlement in Australia. In keeping with Chinese papercutting rhetoric, my compositions are filled with depictions of flora and fauna. The allegories often feature an interplay between species that are endemic, migratory and introduced. Since the late 2010s, I have been profiling Chinese Australians who have contributed towards the cultural landscape from the 19th century to the present. As well as cutting their portraits, I have been making paper effigies of crops they cultivated.

As far as my copper works are concerned, this is a medium in which I have been recently experimenting. In addition to paying homage to this ancient art form, the materiality of copper helps convey two different sentiments in the works. In Sandpiper Curlew Dispersing Water Pepper, the property of copper as a conduit is exploited. This is a work depicting an avian species dispersing a floral one. It symbolises the change migrants can catalyse in the environments they enter. In the Prohibition series, the material of copper harkens back to Mesopotamia when it was used to make vessels for drinking. During this time beer was also brewed and consumed. The medicinal use of alcohol and its contrasting abuse in social contexts can be reflected upon through these depictions of flora which have medical uses but are deemed weeds in Australia. These works question the role of context in determining the positive or negative nature of any entity.

Ning ChenNing Chen

Ning Chen, born in Shanghai in 1957, is a renowned contemporary Chinese artist based in Melbourne. Chen graduated from the Shanghai School of Arts and Crafts, one of the few art schools in Shanghai at the time, and was a member of the Shanghai Artists Association. In 1989 Chen moved to Australia where he began his cross-cultural journey of artistic exploration. Chen's artistic career has spanned both China and Australia and his works are deeply influenced by both cultures, integrating the essence of traditional Chinese art with innovative elements of modern Western art.

Chen specialises in using traditional Chinese brush and ink on paper in his creation. He is well known for his unique creation of anthropomorphic animals, especially horses. His art explores his understanding and thoughts about life, nature and culture through innovative techniques.

Chen has had many solo and group exhibitions in Sydney, Melbourne and Shanghai. His latest solo exhibition entitled Riding on Dreams was held in Live in Art in Sydney in 2023. He was the finalist in the 2023 Hazelhurst Art on Paper Award. His ink painting Wang won the Melbourne Ross Art Prize in 1993.

Over the years Chen has continued to create a balance between tradition and modernity, exploring the relationship between man and nature, East and West through his artworks. He is committed to building a bridge of cultural exchange through his artistic creations, and his artistic career is a testimony to the fusion and innovation of Chinese and Western art traditions.

Artist Statement

I was born and grew up in Shanghai and so had my artistic roots deeply embedded in the rich history and culture of China. After moving to Australia in 1989, I began my new journey of artistic exploration in a very different cultural environment that has since injected new vitality and perspectives into my artistic creations.

I love and have consistently used traditional Chinese brush, ink and paper to paint and experiment with incorporating Western contemporary elements in my perception of the world and our relationship with nature. My paintings prominently feature anthropomorphic animals, horses in particular. The horse is not only a vivid image, but also a symbol of my pursuit of freedom, strength and beauty. The horse, a recurrent theme in my practice, has been both a source of inspiration and a bridge of emotional resonance between me and viewers. Through the image of the horse, I explore the complexity and innocence of human nature, as well as the position of the individual in society and nature.

In my art practice, I always adhere to the principle of inheritance of traditions as the foundation and incessant creativity as the soul of art. I respect and love the depth of traditional Chinese ink and brushwork, and at the same time I continue to seek innovation and breakthroughs based on this tradition. I try to break cultural boundaries and integrate the artistic elements and ideas of the East and the West to create a unique visual language.

My paintings, while seemingly and deceptively simple, are imbued with my personal reflections on the world we live in and invoke unlimiting aspirations towards the future. Through careful handling of colours, lines and space, I try to build an art world in my paintings that has both traditional Chinese aesthetics and a sense of contemporary art. This art world is both real and a fantasy, concrete and abstract, and it invites the viewer into a unique exchange of emotions and thoughts.

Nelson NgheNelson Nghe

Nelson Nghe is a Western Sydney-based artist engaging with a diverse range of mediums including painting, photo media and assemblage. Nelson’s practice is characterised by the passionate use of mixed media and playful abstractions to push boundaries and highlight intersectional narratives as a first-generation Australian Chinese growing up queer within a culturally and linguistically diverse background in western Sydney.

Nelson graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce and Diploma of Fashion Design and interweaves these backgrounds onto his current art practice to understand the intergenerational impacts of his Chinese diaspora. In 2013, as a freshly graduated designer, he was announced Peroni & Harpers Bazaar Young Designer of the Year. In February 2023 he had his debut solo exhibition Playtime which was presented as part of Sydney World Pride that year. Nelson has been a finalist in several major art awards, including the Fisher’s Ghost Art Award, Hornsby Art Prize and Blacktown City Art Prize. In 2023, Nelson won the Blacktown City Art Prize People’s Choice Award.

Artist Statement

This body of work shines a light on Australia’s gambling problem. Growing up within a culturally and linguistically diverse background in Western Sydney, I draw upon my lived experience of gambling harm as a family member to mediate conversations around trauma, gambling harm, and the Chinese diaspora. Research has shown that members from culturally and linguistically diverse communities who gamble are up to seven times more likely to develop severe problems associated with gambling. It has also been estimated that in the Australian Chinese community, problem gambling rates are between two and eight times higher than the general population.

I sublimate my lived experiences onto paintings, mixed media assemblages, and text-based works in order to engage with the unseen traumas in modern Australian society as a by-product of the migrant and refugee re-settlements. Being the child of refugees and migrants who experienced the Khmer Rouge regime and the Vietnam War, I aim to build cross-cultural and intergenerational dialogue about the complexities of diaspora and my first-generation Australian Chinese identity. To new arrivals in a Western country, casinos and clubs present as venues that are perceived as safe, attractive and culturally sensitive to CALD members as they offer culturally specific food, drink and entertainment (including gambling games), all mimicking the busy nightlife.

Each piece aims to break down the stigmas and shame attached to gambling, which has long been associated with Asian culture. The mixed media assembling process of these pieces echoes the fact that poker machines are highly complex devices that have been designed by experts. They are also considered the most harmful form of gambling, and the cause of the majority of gambling addictions. The use of vibrant paints on objects and canvases parallels that of sensory cues such as flashing lights which, when paired with a reward, lead to “riskier” decision making. At the same time, the physical process of layering found objects and materials reveals the hidden levels of shame and stigma around the topic of gambling. This creates barriers for refugees and newly arrived migrants to seek help around this area.

Ultimately, by recognising the interconnectedness of individuals and the world we share, we can work towards creating a world where much-needed gambling reforms are implemented. There is compelling evidence that a mandatory cashless gambling card will help minimise the harm caused by gambling, and gambling reform has never been needed more when considering that Australians spend more on gambling per capita each year than any other country. By sharing the lived experience of gambling harm as a family member, I hope to raise awareness, reduce stigma, and encourage change in our world.

Guest Speakers

Professor Jocelyn Chey AMJocelyn Bio

Professor Jocelyn Chey AM is Visiting Professor at the University of Sydney, and Adjunct Professor in the Institute for Chinese Arts and Culture, Western Sydney University and the Australia-China Relations Institute, University of Technology Sydney. She is also a Fellow of the Institute of International Affairs.

Professor Chey has held many distinguished diplomatic appointments including the first Cultural Counsellor in the Australia Embassy in Beijing (1975-1978); the first Executive Director of the Australia-China Council (1979-1984), Senior Trade Commissioner in the Australian Embassy in Beijing (1985-1988), Director of the China Branch of the International Wool Secretariat (1988-1992) and Consul-General for Australia in Hong Kong and Macau (1992-1995).

In 2008, she was awarded an Australia-China Council Medal for contributions to the development of relations between Australia and China.  In 2009 she was honoured with the Medal of Australia (AM) in recognition of her community service and contribution to the development of relations with China. Jocelyn was the Founding Director of the Institute for Chinese Arts and Culture, Western Sydney University 2016-17.

Professor Chey’s current research fields include cultural diplomacy with relevance to China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, and the cultural aspects of Chinese humour.  She has co-authored and co-edited two books on the latter subject and published widely on cultural diplomacy and Chinese international relations. Professor Chey is a frequent speaker and lecturer on Chinese arts, culture and political affairs.

Dr Guan WeiGuan Wei Bio Image

Guan Wei was born in Beijing in 1957 and graduated from the Department of Fine Arts at Beijing Capital University in 1986. He first came to Australia in 1989, and from 1989 to1992 he completed art residencies at the University of Tasmania and the Australian National University. During this period, he was also the first artist-in-residence from China at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney (MCA). In 1993 Guan Wei immigrated to Australia and in 2008 he set up a studio in Beijing. Prior to the pandemic he lived and worked in both Beijing and Sydney and over the years has made significant contributions to the art exchanges between Australia and China.

Guan Wei has held over 70 solo exhibitions in Australia and internationally, including Nesting, or Art of Idleness at MCA in 1999; Other Histories: Guan Wei's Fable for a Contemporary World at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney in 2006; and Guan Wei: MCA Collection in 2019 which included his major works the Two-finger Exercises series from 1989 and the mural Feng Shui commissioned for the Bureau of Meteorology in Melbourne. Guan Wei has been included in many important international contemporary exhibitions, such as the Shanghai Biennial, 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 Biennial, South Korea. His major awards include 2002 Sulman Prize at Art Gallery of NSW and 2015 Arthur Guy Memorial Prize. In recognition of his tremendous contribution to Australian and Chinese contemporary art, Guan Wei was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Creative Art from Western Sydney University in 2021.

Guan Wei is an iconic figure in the Australian contemporary art scene and critically acclaimed internationally. His art is highly praised not only for its intellectual depth, artistic originality, humanity, and integration of past, present, East and West, but also for its sharp sense of humour and, above all, its unique Guan Wei style. Through his art he reflects upon the human condition as we engage with critical contemporary issues, such as climate change, questions of identity, migration and exile. His works are equally the product of his rich cultural repertory of symbols as they are of his informed socio-political awareness and knowledge of art history.

Photo Gallery

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