Featured Tapestries

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Treasure Hunt

The ATW is pleased to be working with Guan Weion a major new tapestry project for the ATW exhibition collection.Chris Cochius, Pamela Joyce, Jennifer Sharpe andCheryl Thornton have begun weaving Treasure Hunt, a 3.6m long tapestry. Thedesign is inspired by a large painted mural from Guan Wei'sexhibition Other Histories at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney in 2006. Treasure Huntreflects upon Indigenous and colonial culture, as well as cultural diversity. Through thedepiction of the oceans, islands and desert interiors, Guan Wei references navigation, exploration, migration and the influence of, and response toglobalisation.

The inspiration for the Other Histories exhibition was one of the Powerhouse Museum’s most mysterious objects: a small figure of the Chinese God of Longevity unearthed in Darwin in 1879. The Museum acquired a plaster cast of the object in 1889 and the original in 1950. From the time of its discovery, the figure has been the subject of much speculative and scholarly enquiry. Many writers and historians have suggested that the God of Longevity may be evidence of the arrival of a Chinese vessel from the voyages of Zheng He (1371-1432) in the early 15th century, more than 350 years before James Cook landed at Kurnell.

‘The eunch admiral Zheng He led a legendary fleet of “treasure ships” and thousands of men and set sail for foreign lands. Over nearly three decades, from 1405 to 1433, Zheng He made a series of official voyages visiting numerous strange and wonderful places. Zheng He and his men collected rare spices, marvellous treasures and wondrous birds and animals. They documented the exotic plants, animals and peoples that they saw. On these voyages Zheng He and his crew navigated new ocean routes and created nautical maps.

‘By presenting “Other Histories” it has been my aim to subvert a singular ideological approach and encourage free-form imagining. Today we live in an environment full of nervous tension and anxiety. I sincerely hope that the ‘other’ history inherent in my own version of the story of Zheng He’s fleet will encourage people from different racial and cultural backgrouds to connect with one another, seek friendships with one another and live together in harmony.’

Guan Wei in Other Histories catalogue, Powerhouse Museum 2006.


Treasure Hunt represents the flora and fauna Zheng He might on seen on his travels, including sea monsters draw from Chinese and European mythology. The land shapes in the design reference 14th C. Chinese maps, and the Chinese symbols for East and West have been painted in as well as the names of the mountains. Each smaller drawing within the work has a significance or symbolism either within European or Asian history, and the meaning behind each of these drawings contributes to the overall narrative of the design.

The weavers will be working with two different warp sets for this project. Double warps (two per bead) will be used for the oceans and land, and single warp (one per bead) will be used for the animals and other small details. This means the weavers can capture the detail in these creatures without having to add too much detail to the oceans and land. This tapestry uses both wool and cotton, but more strands of cotton than wool in the colour mixing.

About the artist:

Over the last three decades Guan Wei has developed a significant international reputation as a contemporary artist whose work crosses cultural and political borders, specifically between Australia and Asia. A Chinese national who migrated to Australia in 1989, his practice draws on his personal experience of both Chinese and Australian culture, as well as an informed socio-political awareness and knowledge of art history. With a consummate ability to create work at once light in tone and profound in message, his prolific creative output has consistently examined complex social issues underpinned by humility and a deep respect for humanity. Across painting, sculpture and installation, his work conveys profound stories of loss, migration, identity, and notions of boundaries and place, interweaving an understanding of tradition and the past in the face of overwhelming global change today.

Guan Wei has won many awards, including the 2015 Arthur Guy Memorial Painting Prize, Bendigo Art Gallery, 2002 Sulman Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales, and was selected for the prestigious 2009 Clemenger Contemporary Art Award, National Gallery of Victoria. Solo exhibitions include: Archaeology, ARC ONE Gallery, 2014; Spellbound, He Xiang Ning Art Museum, OCT Contemporary Art Terminal, Shenzhen, China, 2011; The Enchantment, ARC ONE Gallery, 2012; Other histories: Guan Wei’s fable for a contemporary world, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, 2006–07; Looking, Greene St Studio, New York, 2003; Zen Garden, Sherman Contemporary, Sydney, 2000; and Nesting, or the Art of Idleness 1989–1999, MCA, Sydney, 1999.

Major group exhibitions include: Borders, Barriers, Walls, Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne, 2016; Collaborative Witness: Artists responding to the plight of the refugee, University of Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane, 2011; Shanghai Biennial, Shanghai Museum, China, 2010; 10th Havana Biennial, Cuba, 2009; The China Project, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 2009; Handle with Care, Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art, Adelaide, 2008; Face Up: Contemporary Art from Australia, Hamburger Bahnhof Museum, Berlin, 2003–04; Sulman Prize Exhibition, Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney, 2002; Osaka Triennial, Japan, 2001; Man and Space, Kwangju Biennale, South Korea, 2000; Third Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, 1999.