Mathew Lynn’s strong interest in the art and literature of both the West and the East has meant that he has, at times, looked for ways to combine elements of both traditions. His portrait of Guan Wei is a case in point.
Here Lynn is interested in conveying Eastern serenity using the painting techniques of the Venetian and Spanish schools, practised by artists whom he particularly admires like Giovanni Bellini, Titian and Velasquez.
Lynn’s portrait of Guan Wei is rather classical and understated. “He is represented as a colossal yet delicate figure whose facial expression is mildly quizzical but open and whose hand gestures reveal some tension as well as gentle composure,” says Lynn. “I have tried to gently address the continuing and at times difficult dialogue with the East that we experience in our country.”
He has used a dark background to focus attention on the face and the place where the shoes delicately touch the floor, and has consciously tried to eliminate all unnecessary information, keeping the clothing understated and tonally subtle.
Lynn met Wei last year while both were working at Sydney Grammar School and was impressed by his highly skilled, elegant work and his gentle but determined nature. Descended from an illustrious Manchu family, Guan Wei is now a permanent resident in Australia.
A runner-up in last year’s Archibald, Lynn also won the People’s Choice Award for his portrait of Jeanne Ryckmans.