Review: ‘Cloud’ by Guan Wei at Arc One Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 1st June – 29th June 2010


Guan Wei (China, b. 1957) 'Buddha's hand' 2010


Guan Wei (China, b. 1957)
Buddha’s hand



The exhibition Cloud by Australian artist Guan Wei at Arc One Gallery in Melbourne contains two bodies of work that are outstanding: the series of paintings on paper titled Buddha’s Hand and the series of five figurative sculptures titled Cloud. Each body of work compliments and informs the other.

The small Buddha’s Hand paintings (see below) are the most delicate of creatures – sensual, poetic almost fetishistic in their composition and utterly beguiling in their beauty. Referencing the history of cave paintings of the Buddha, Wei updates the ancient allegories expressing his message of harmony and leisure, identity and place through visual symbolic representation. These works are profoundly moving, the figurative compositions balanced masterfully through colour, shape and form, studded with the punctum of red bindi-like energy centres arising from the faceless yogic figures.

Sitting on white pedestals and positioned close to the Buddha’s Hand paintings in the gallery are the series of five Cloud figures (see below). Made of bronze that has been spray painted white these are wonderful sculptures, full of delicious humour and vibrancy. There is a sensuality and delicacy about the figures that is emphasised by their snowy whiteness, a whiteness that subverts the tactility, colour and weight that one usually associates with the metal bronze. Here the figure has, variously, it’s head in the clouds while pensively crossing arms; bearing the weight of the world on the back while the vacant mouth is open; preparing to throw the cloud as Zeus would a thunderbolt; reclining while balancing the cloud on one foot and with one foot stuck in the earth that is cloud. The cloud becomes a metaphor for thought and action in the world, acting on the world. In these sculptures there is no creed nor race, no ideology or nation and I believe that Wei attains his stated aim to redefine our relationship with one another and nature by transcending both. I am not alone in liking these sculptures – they have proved very popular and all five sculptures in editions of five have already sold out!

Other work in the exhibition is more prosaic – a multi-panelled screen, the On Cloud and Zodiac series never seem to breathe the same rarefied air as the above two bodies of work. They are disappointments that only serve to illuminate how brilliant holding the Buddha’s hand and living your life with your head in the clouds can be.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Many thankx to Angela Connor and Arc One Gallery for allowing me to reproduce the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.


Guan Wei (China, b. 1957) 'Buddha's hand' 2010


Guan Wei (China, b. 1957)
Buddha’s hand


Guan Wei (China, b. 1957) 'Buddha's hand' 2010


Guan Wei (China, b. 1957)
Buddha’s hand



“I hope that we will be able to transcend the restrictions imposed on us by such notions as nation, ethnicity, ideology, cultural and history, and redefine our relationship with one another and nature.”

Guan Wei



Guan Wei is an adept storyteller who masterfully engages his audiences. Retaining the humour, wisdom and cross-cultural knowledge that have become characteristics of his ongoing oeuvre, his work breathes an awareness of our current social and environmental dilemmas exploring ideas of immigration, colonisation, identity politics and cultural tolerance.

Flirtatious and aesthetically whimsical, Guan Wei’s works are instantly recognisable. In this latest exhibition, Cloud, Guan Wei fuses sculpture, drawings and paintings to form what is part of his most beguiling trademark – ‘the art of idleness’. For the first time since returning to China, he will present new sculptures that employ his ongoing preoccupation with the figure and the figure in relation to the natural form. These sculptures are Guan Wei’s personal visual symbols of harmony and leisure. They form the thread for the four series of works in this exhibition.

During the past fifteen years, Guan Wei has help change the identity of Australian Art. He draws on his own experience as a Chinese national who migrated to Australia from China in the period following the Tiananmen Square massacre (1989). Guan Wei has spent twenty years living and working as an artist raising the awareness of Australia being a multicultural country. He has had over 40 solo exhibitions, been the recipient of numerous awards and included in every major collection. In 2009, Guan Wei was selected for the prestigious Clemenger Contemporary Art Award at the National Gallery of Victoria.

Press release from the Arc One Gallery website [Online] Cited 10/06/2010 no longer available online


Guan Wei (China, b. 1957) 'Cloud No.4' 2009


Guan Wei (China, b. 1957)
Cloud No.4
Bronze statue
edition of 5
39 x 30 x 25cm


Guan Wei (China, b. 1957) 'Cloud No.5' 2009


Guan Wei (China, b. 1957)
Cloud No.5
Bronze statue
edition of 5
47 x 35 x 35cm



Arc One Gallery
45 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, 3000
Phone: +61 3 9650 0589

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Saturday 11am – 5pm

Arc One Gallery website


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1 Response to “Review: ‘Cloud’ by Guan Wei at Arc One Gallery, Melbourne”

  1. June 22, 2010 at 6:53 am

    cool and new to me, these are….

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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