Guan Wei's latest exhibition at ARC ONE Gallery presents three bodies of work: A Digital Age, a suite of paintings laden with philosophical meaning, The Metamorphosis, a video work depicting migration, identity, and notions of boundaries and place, and Cosmotheoria, a major 42-panel work which explores our individual and collective knowledge. In A Digital Age, Guan Wei examines the realities of contemporary life and our relationship to, and increasing reliance on, numbers, symbols and signs. In the face of increasing alienation, digitalisation, virtual reality, and global change, this body of work invites us to reflect on our humanity:
"Numbers which represent highly abstract symbols are present in philosophies, religions, sciences, arts and cultures throughout human history. The information embodied in numbers has been absorbed in our genetic make-up. We recognise the capability and power of numbers by intuition. Numbers embody codes of information from ancient times, for example, dualism, the Trinity, four elements of nature, and the Chinese wisdom of the sixth day of the sixth month, the list goes on. The advance of modern digital technology is mind-boggling. The binary numeral system, Big Data, the Internet, and so on, are all about digitalisation which has intruded into every corner of our lives. Have digits become the essence of humankind? Yuval Noah Harari in his book Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow questions, " Are organisms really just algorithms, and is life really just data processing?" Guan Wei, 2021
Such themes are similarly explored in the key work Cosmotheoria. The title is drawn from a Latin term for "world-view" and considers the ways in which the known and unknown are constantly changing. Our knowledge and understanding of the immense universe, but also of nations, societies, others, civilizations, history and geography are constantly in flux, varying throughout time and place. In this work, Guan Wei has merged eastern and western philosophies, art histories, eras and empires, signs and symbols, using, as the artist explains, 'a kind of magic collage, with an oriental perspective, to confuse the viewing point'. Representative images from different cultures are extracted and placed in the same painting to create an imaginary cross-cultural realm that explores contemporary issues and an up-to-date view of the world.
With his consummate ability to create work at once light in tone and profound in message, Guan Wei finds a higher order of expression in these beautifully produced paintings and video work. Interlaced with the artist's emblematic clouds and iconic characters and motifs, the works in this exhibition are powerfully drawn together through a material and metaphysical exploration of human life.
Press release courtesy Arc One Gallery.