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Jiawei Shen

b. 1948

Shen Jiawei (b. 1948) was a member of the Shanghai Red Guard, made history paintings for the Chinese government and studied at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing before he was constrained to leave China because of a painting he made depicting heroes of the Chinese nationalist movement. He arrived in Australia in 1989, and spent three years drawing portraits at Darling Harbour. He has since become a regular Archibald finalist, and has painted commissions of Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, Tom Hughes QC and L Gordon Darling AC CMG for the National Portrait Gallery. 'There are two sides to my work,' he explains. 'When I came here I was nothing . . . so any commission was very exciting. But for a long time now, I've been interested in making paintings that show the big things: the world, history, great men.' To make a picture such as The Third World 2002, depicting 92 identifiable contemporary and historical figures, he spends months in the library, as well as in his studio south of Sydney. He has no plans to return to China, commenting that 'When I go back I see the worst of communism and the worst of capitalism.'

Updated 2018