“From factory work to fine artist, from shadows to lights” –
Q&A with Hurstville Museum & Gallery featuring artist Fangmin Wu
Fangmin Wu is an established Australian Chinese artist and local resident in Georges River. His creations have been selected in some of the world‘s most prestigious art prizes including: Beijing Art Exhibition, Miradas International Art Contest in Spain and Blake Art Prize and Georges River Art Prize in Australia.
His life and inspirations evolve around the Georges River and its natural surroundings. His efforts saw him create Reflection – an impressionist exhibition that captures the dance between lights and shadows.
Hurstville Museum & Gallery’s Dragon’s Lair exhibition series will feature Reflection by artist Fangmin Wu from Saturday 17 April to Sunday 9 May 2021, with the exhibition being opened by fellow Chinese Australian artist Guan Wei on Sunday 18 April 2.00pm to 5.00pm.
Tell us a bit about your early life in China and what inspired you to become an artist?
I was born in 1950’s in Zhejiang province, on the east coast of China, where I was educated until I was 18, then allocated to be a labourer in a local factory during the Cultural Revolution.
During school, I was lucky to have an art school teacher who introduced me to Impressionism and Modernism. From age of 15 I developed a profound interest in fine art. I would take every possible opportunity to read art books; it was when I came across artistic expressions in Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
Soon I started exploring on my own creative journey. I joined Artists Association, expanded my horizons in fine art creation, later found my feet and confidence, and started to have opportunities to publish my own work in fine art magazines. In those early days, my biggest achievement in China was to come second in Zhejiang Provincial Emerging Young Artist Awards (浙江省青年美术作品奖).
What brought you to Australia?
I came to Australia as an art student in the early 1990’s. I was one of some 40,000 international students who arrived from China. I studied fine art at the University of Sydney.
I wasn’t my initial intention to settle here, but somehow the familiar cultural vibe in Hurstville, the beauty of Georges River drew me to stay rooted to the south part of Sydney.
What was your life like when you first arrived in Australia?
Like many international students, my life back then was all about survival. There were many barriers to overcome. I certainly worked in many jobs. My first job in Australia was to pick up my old profession and went back to a factory, this time a package labourer. Next big task was to navigate the language barrier. Since then, I have expanded my resume in many different industries, from graphic design, to art editor in newspapers and advertising and creative agencies.
Despite all these distractions, I never once gave up on my beloved paint brushes.
To keep my passion going, I started volunteering in local cultural events such as the Lunar New Year celebrations, showcasing Chinese calligraphy painting techniques. I soon put my focus on entering art prizes and competitions such as Archibald Prize and Blake Art Prize.
I was extremely honoured to be selected twice in Blake Art Prize (2011 and 2013), being the first ever Chinese finalist and winner of the Highly Recommended Prize in Miradas International Art Contest Spain 2016 and finalist in Georges River Art Prize 2019.
Why your exhibition is named ‘Reflection’?
I drew my inspirations from nearby nature, especially during “magical hour”. The lights are so detailed, sometimes they harmonise each other, sometimes also reflect each other.
What would you like to communicate with your audience through your works?
Through lights and shadows, I want to create a different world, a different atmosphere that reflects the relations between human and nature, mountains and waters, rivers and banks and all souls of lives.
I also want to leave enough space to my audiences’ interpretation and perspective of the world I creative in my paintings.
What do you think you have accomplished so far for this exhibition?
I want to challenge myself, not to repeat anything similar to previous styles.
I am glad that I have accomplished this with Reflection, I want to continue that challenge and see how much further I can go with local inspirations in Georges River.
Hurstville Museum & Gallery
14 MacMahon St, Hurstville
Tuesday – Friday, 10.00am – 4.00pm
Saturday, 10.00am – 2.00pm
Sunday, 2.00pm – 5.00pm
Image Courtesy Fangmin Wu