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Australian art

Contemporary art

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Self-portrait with guardian spirits



Kate Beynon

Australia, Hong Kong

1970 -


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.


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



Accession number


Archibald Prize

- 2010

Artist information

Kate Beynon

Works in the collection



Where the work was made

Shown in 3 exhibitions

Exhibition history

Referenced in 1 publication


Art Gallery of New South Wales (Editor), 2010 Archibald Prize, Sydney, 2010, (colour illus.). Highly commended; 34