© Cleared / image missing


China born 1957

  • Australia from 1990

Efficacy of medicine 1995 Place made: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Materials & Technique: paintings, synthetic polymer paint on ten panels

Dimensions: each approx. 87.0 h x 46.0 w cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 2000
Accession No: NGA 2000.340.A-J

Guan Wei has developed an idiosyncratic visual language that crosses cultural and geographical borders. Born in Beijing in 1957, he is now a permanent resident of Australia. The evolution of his work reveals a capacity to creatively distil observations and feelings relating to his past and present, while simultaneously reflecting upon the ambiguities of cross-cultural meetings shaping the future. For him, the search for home is as much an internal journey as a physical one.

With an increasing awareness of different approaches to representation, Guan Wei has been able to develop an imaginative personal style that he has described as his ‘own language nest’. In his important work of the mid-1990s, Efficacy of medicine, he creates a theatrical stage of encounters between a range of signs, symbols and gestures, encompassing humour as well as a serious investigation into human dreams and aspirations. As he explains:

This work explores the processes of being human in a society of mixed cultures; the subtleties and misunderstandings, the clashes and, ultimately, the shared joys.

!In the painting, the capsules are a symbol of medicine and drugs. They represent a new substance produced from ancient alchemy and modern high technology. They could save lives but could also cause death: it is up to us.

Metaphor and symbolism are the main mechanisms of these paintings. For example, the dots on the human body are borrowed from the ancient Chinese Book of Changes: they symbolise our future. The objects on the tables (the drinks, the toys, the fruit etc) together form fables in each frame: stories about the yet mysterious future of multiculturalism.

Above all, the mixing of cultures makes life exciting and novel!

Guan Wei (2002) and Deborah Hart

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002