Guan Wei

Plastic surgery

acrylic on linen
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Plastic surgery is a self-portrait by Guan Wei exploring his experience as an immigrant and the struggle to find a balance between his Chinese cultural heritage and his new life in Australia.

‘The first canvas depicts memories of my mother country – home. My self-portrait is featured on the cover of a huge personnel file. The government keeps a secret file on every individual in China, which includes all aspects of your life,’ says Guan Wei.

‘The second and third canvases reflect my life after arriving in Australia and illustrate my attempts at fitting into this new, strange land. There are diagrams featuring my DNA and blood type along with a chart of Westerners’ features.

‘The fourth canvas represents confirmation of my new identity. It includes immigration form #887, a certificate of Australian citizenship, bank account details, passport – all the documents necessary to prove a new identity. The name change on the business card from “Guan Wei” to “David Guan” illustrates the pressure to adapt. Naturally all immigrants desire acceptance and recognition, to become just another Australian.’

Born in Beijing in 1957, Guan Wei graduated from the Department of Fine Arts at Bejing Capital University. He came to Australia in 1989 and now divides his time between Sydney and Beijing. An artist whose work exudes humour and wit, he has been a finalist in the Sulman Prize four times, winning it in 2002, and also a finalist in the Wynne Prize.

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