Fan Dongwang

Chinese Australian artist Dr Fan Dongwang studied traditional Chinese art at Shanghai School of Arts and Crafts (SSAC) in 70’s and later became an art teacher at SSAC. As an established Shanghai artist, his work exhibited regularly in Shanghai Art Gallery since 1982, including 1986 Shanghai Art Museum Inaugural Art Exhibition, 1987 Shanghai International Art Festival. As a member of the top professional body Chinese Artists Association he was awarded the Prize for Excellent Work for Shanghai International Culture Exchange. In 1990 Fan migrated to Australia as an artist of ‘Distinguished Talent’. Fan studied Master of Arts at COFA, NSW University in 1995, and received Post Graduate Award and completed Doctor of Creative Art at Wollongong University in 1999. His doctoral theses Shifting Perspectives and the Body established a theoretical model for comparing the differences between the representation of spatial depth in Chinese and European paintings. He was a guest lecturer at ANU, Wollongong University and visiting fellow at Curtin University. His painting was shown in group exhibition at National Gallery of Australia and his solo exhibitions were held at Wollongong City Gallery, Drill Hall Gallery, Sydney University College of the Arts Galleries and Macquarie University Art Gallery. He was awarded Wollongong University Postgraduate Award, Mosman Art Prize, Festival of Fisher’s Ghost Art Award, Liverpool City Art Prize; Willoughby City Art Prize; Ian Potter Cultural Trust Grant; and Art on The Rocks Prize. He was twice the finalist at the Wynne and Sulman Prizes at the AGNSW and the finalist at Moran prize. Recently Fan’s work was featured in China CCTV. Currently lives and works in Sydney.

‘My most recent exhibition Syncretic Visions showcasing large canvas paintings that combine different religions, politics, arts and philosophy to present a shifting perspective and syncretic visual interpretation of contradictory beliefs and the diversity of cultural identities.

I employ a new method of painting which he describes as ‘painting as relief sculpture’, where he produces works in a similar way to traditional Chinese ivory carving – using the brush to ‘carve out’ the paint from the painting’s surface, as if carving a low relief sculpture. This process produces the effect of three-dimensional volume on a two-dimensional surface, a visual illusion that is also expressed in traditional Chinese art.

My artwork presents a confronting worldview: a world that is opposing, traversing, overlapping, obstruct and confused. The many traditional and contemporary iconic images depicted in these large paintings are not only beautiful, but also powerful symbols of Australia’s diverse cultures and nationhood. The evocative imagery may seem contradictory to viewers of different backgrounds, yet the layers of meaning and multiple interpretations endeavour to open up dialogue and contribute to an understanding of today’s world.

My recent painting Dragons are based on the Chinese folk religion icons in cultural objects such as jade and ivory carvings. Dragons are aquatic creatures that live in water with fluid and hybrid identities. These traditional images are not only beautiful, but powerful symbols of nationhood. It is through such symbols that the past continues to have a bearing on the present as well as the future. Dragons use their wisdom to navigate the terrain of ongoing change. Water is the environmental agent for change: it dissolves and transforms the traditional Chinese icons into a new kind of postmodern dragon – one that is disintegrated and reintegrated. The background also shows many major world religious symbols. It symbolises today’s China; a mixture of the traditional and modern, Eastern and Western cultures and religions.’

–Fan Dongwang