Jiawei Shen

Jiawei Shen

Born in Shanghai, China, 1948
Lives and works in Sydney

Jiawei Shen
Standing Guard for our Great Motherland,1974
Oil on canvas

Largely self-taught Jiawei Shen became a well known artist in China in mid 1970s during the Cultural Revolution era. His oil painting Standing Guard For Our Great Motherland (1974) became an icon in that years and later shown in New York twice: Guggenheim Museum in 1998, and Asia Society Museum in 2008. In 2009 it was auctioned away in Beijing Guardian at about one million US Dollars. Now it is in the collection of the Long Museum in Shanghai.

Jiawei Shen moved to Australia in 1989 and for the first three years had to support himself financially by drawing portrait sketches for tourists at Darling Harbour. He looked on this experience as an opportunity to research portraiture and since then he has completed many accomplished portrait commissions in Australia and overseas. As a leading portraitist he was commissioned by Australian government to paint official portraits for Pope Frances (2013), Princess Mary of Denmark (2005), Prime Minister John Howard (2009) and Australian Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove (2018).

Since 1993 Jiawei’s portrait paintings have been selected as finalist for the Archibald Prize at the Art Gallery NSW  fourteen times and in 1997 he was runner-up for this prize. He has been a finalist in the Doug Moran Portrait Prize (1994, 1996, 2006,2007and 2017) and has twice won third prize in the Sydney Royal Art Show (1993, 1994). In 1995 Jiawei won the Mary McKillop Art Award and received a medal from Pope John Paul II. He had also won the Sir John Sulman Prize in 2006, and the Gallipoli Art Prize in 2016.

His portraitist gift also had been used in large history paintings. In his Australian epic At the Turn of Century (1998) there were more then 100 historical individuals; In his Malaysian epic Merdeka (2008), 260; and in his Chinese epic Brothers and Sisters (2010-2017), more then 450.

Jiawei has six works in the collections of the National Portrait Gallery,  and the Parliament House, both in Canberra. In China, he has eighteen works in the collections of the National Museum, the National Art Museum, and the National Military Museum, all in Beijing. His portrait of the Pope Frances is in the Vatican art collection.

“Shen is a whole-hearted painter who has come through a tough artistic training in China. He has all the technical ability, the courage to take on ambitious compositions, and a hint of self-depreciating wit” (John McDonald, SMH).