Guan Wei fled to Australia after the Tiananmen Square events of 1989. Here he found himself balanced between two cultures so that he drew on his Chinese heritage and married it with Australian subject matter. Today he lives and works both in China and Australia. According to critic, John McDonald, Guan Wei is “ a socially committed thinker who believes that art comes with certain responsibilities. As a consequence, he has made pictures that present Australian history as a story of invasion and indigenous dispossession. He has produced work dealing with the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers, and the incipient xenophobia that lurks at the fringes of Australian Society.” (The Sydney Morning Herald, 13/02/15)
This sculpture is one of 5 “Clouds”. Guan Wei likes to play with the notion of the cloud and its light and freedom, but in this sculpture is appears to be weighing down the man underneath, as if he is weighed down by a shadow. As such it seems to be an eloquent symbol of the Holocaust survivor or, more universally, of any man who carries his suffering with him.
Guan Wei's work has a profoundly felt, if implicity ironic, moral dimension. In their complex symbolic form, his subjects potently embody current social and environmental dilemmas. They are equally a product of his rich cultural repetory of symbols and his informed socio-political awareness and art-historical knowledge.
Born 1957, Beijing, China. In 1989, three years after graduating from the Department of Fine Arts at Beijing Capital University, Guan Wei came to Australia to take up an artist-in-residence at the Tasmanian School of Art. He was invited to undertake two further residencies: one at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney (1992), the other at the Canberra School of Art, Australian National University (1993). Since then he obtained many grants, including Australia Council’s grant for Greene St New York studio in 2003, Cite International des Art Paris in 2007 & Fellowship in 2008-09. In 2008 he set up a studio in Beijing. Now he lives and works in both Beijing and Sydney.
Guan Wei has held 50 solo exhibitions, including, most recently, “Archaeology”, ARC ONE, Melbourne; “Spellbound”, Guan Wei 2011 at He Xiang Ning OCT Contemporary Art Centre Schenzhen; “Cloud in the sky, Water in the bottle” Shumu Art Space, Beijing 2010; “Other Histories: Guan Wei’s Fable For A Contemporary World” at Powerhouse Museum, Sydney 2006-07; “A Distant Land” at Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia, Adelaide in 2006;
“Looking for home” Earliu Gallery, Singapore in 2000, also, Nesting, or Act of Idleness Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, in 1999.
He has been included in numerous important contemporary exhibitions internationally, such as the Shanghai Biennial 2010; 10th Havana Biennial Cuba in 2009; “Handle with Care”, Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art, at Art Gallery of South Australia in 2008; “Face Up: Contemporary Art from Australia”, Hamburger Bahnhof Museum, Berlin 2003; Osaka Triennial Contemporary Art Space Osaka Japan 2001; “Man and Space”, Kwangju Biennial 2000; Third Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Queensland Art Gallery, Australia, 1999.
Craftsman House published Guan Wei’s monograph in 2006. Guan Wei has won several awards, including the 2002 Sir John Sulman Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia. His work has been held in major public collections and numerous university, corporate and private collection internationally.
Up in the Clouds, No.5, 2012
52 x 32 x 24 cm
Courtesy Arc One Gallery