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Highly commended

Kate Beynon Self-portrait with guardian spirits

acrylic on linen

170 x 170 cm

Kate Beynon’s self-portrait is a contemplation of 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 UK before arriving here in 1974.

‘Thirty-six years later, I embrace a hybrid identity and trans-cultural life as a Chinese-Malaysian/Welsh and Australian artist,’ she says.

Blending traditional and contemporary imagery, Beynon’s work has long been influenced by the Chinese paintings of her late maternal grandfather, animation, film, textiles, fashion, and comic book-style graphics.

Here, she depicts herself sitting cross-legged in a half-lotus position: ‘an anti-anxiety pose, which aims to deal with life’s stresses,’ she says. ‘It’s about being aware while aspiring to stay calm and centred; balancing artistic and family life.’

Accompanied by a large golden dragon and twin green lion-dogs, Beynon says: ‘Dragons represent a positive force in both Chinese and Welsh cultures. Fierce, protective and always benevolent, they symbolise strength and good luck. Painting the dragon’s 10,000-plus scales reflects my occasionally obsessive nature and love of attention to detail. The lion-dogs, or ‘fu dogs’, appear as chunky canines, their fangs displayed in flashy grins. As companions and guardians, they bear a similarity to our own crazy but lovable dog Tudo, a Staffy X.

‘The heart-shaped jade pendant, from my mother, is worn as an amulet, reflecting an interest in auspicious charms and talismans, combined with family connections.’

Beynon graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts in 1993. She lives in Melbourne with her husband, 11-year old son and dog. Beynon was a finalist in the 2006 Archibald Prize. Her self-portrait is now in the collection of the Art Gallery of NSW.