We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Self-portrait with guardian spirits



Kate Beynon

Hong Kong, Australia

1970 –

  • Details

    Place where the work was made
    Melbourne Victoria Australia
    Media category
    Materials used
    synthetic polymer paint on linen
    170.0 x 170.0 cm stretcher
    Signature & date

    Signed and dated u.l. corner to top c. verso on stretcher, pencil "KATE BEYNON … 2009-10".

    Contemporary Collection Benefactors 2012
    Not on display
    Accession number
    © Kate Beynon

    Reproduction requests

    Archibald Prize
    - 2010
    Artist information
    Kate Beynon

    Works in the collection


  • About

    Kate Beynon's work explores the journey she has taken from her birthplace in Kowloon – also known as the City of Nine Dragons – to her life in Australia. Leaving Hong Kong as a young child, she lived in Singapore, Germany and the United Kingdom before arriving in Australia in 1974. As an Australian artist with Chinese-Malaysian and Welsh heritage, Beynon’s work embraces notions of hybrid identities and fluid cross-cultural exchanges.

    Blending traditional and contemporary imagery, Beynon’s distinct visual style is informed by a diverse range of pictorial traditions including European art history, Chinese painting, comic books, animation, film, graffiti, calligraphy and fashion. Her visual narratives draw upon signs and symbols from history to construct dynamic, transitional images, which celebrate the diversity and vitality of coexistence.

    In 'Self-portrait with guardian spirits' she depicts herself sitting cross-legged in a half lotus position – a Buddhist mediative pose – accompanied by a large golden dragon and twin green lion-dogs. Dragons represent a positive force in both Chinese and Welsh cultures. Fierce, protective and always benevolent, they symbolise strength and good luck. The lion-dogs, or ‘fu dogs’, appear as chunky canines with pink swirly manes, their fangs displayed in flashy grins. As companions and guardians, they bear a resemblance to the artist’s own rescued staffy cross-breed. These hybrid creatures challenge the notion of ‘pure origin’, while also creating a sense of adoration and safe-guarding. The idea of protection is also reflected by the heart-shaped jade pendant worn by the artist, an amulet from her mother. It portrays an interest in auspicious charms and talismans, combined with family connections.

  • Places

    Where the work was made


  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 4 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 1 publication

    • Art Gallery of New South Wales (Editor), 2010 Archibald Prize, Sydney, 2010, (colour illus.). Highly commended; cat.no. 34