In 2006 internationally acclaimed Chinese/Australian artist Guan Wei travelled to the Northern Territory to participate in an artist camp at Gunbalanya (Oenpelli), Western Arnhem Land where he worked alongside Kunwinjku artists from Injalak Arts and Crafts. The painting A Myseterious Land No.9 evocatively captures the artist’s first encounter with the outback and his view of similarities between Aboriginal culture and the Taoist philosophy of ancient China.
MAGNT has acquired this important work, building upon the vision of founding director Colin Jack-Hinton who aspired to develop a nationally significant collection for the people of the Northern Territory.


The work was purchased with funds donated by Judy Dent, Fiona Douglas, Scott Elliot, Patricia Isaacs, Liam Kruytbosch, Samantha Lillie, Agnes Michelet, Jane Renshaw, Alastair Shields and Sibylle Brautigam, Allison Stout, Rex Waddell and anonymous donors through the 2017 public appeal.​

Guan Wei at the Culture Trackers Artist Camp in 2006


The outback at night can be a scary place full of creepy noises and strange cries and for Chinese born artist Guan Wei, camping under the stars at Gunbalanya in Arnhem Land was an unnerving experience. He recalls having great difficulty finding sleep on his first night and, although being filled with fear, there was a feeling of awe at the majestic landscape.


Guan Wei moved to Australia in 1990 following the Tiananmen Square massacre in his hometown of Beijing. Although having lived in Australia for over 16 years, he had never been camping when he took part in a Culture Trackers Artist Camp in 2006. Organised by 24HR Art (now the Northern Centre for Contemporary Art) in collaboration with Injalak Arts and Crafts, he was one of five artists of migrant background selected to participate due to his reputation as a major figure in the Australian art scene.


The Artist Camp ran as part of an ongoing program inspired by the Artist in the Field program run by the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (MAGNT) between 1980 and 1991. This program created important opportunities for leading artists from around Australia to experience the inspiration of the Territory’s stunning landscapes. Many of the works created during these camps were acquired by MAGNT and the art collection today includes paintings by such luminary figures as Clifton Pugh, Frank Hodgkinson and Tim Storrier.


Guan Wei’s experiences at Gunbalanya led to the series of paintings A Mysterious Land – a body of work which represents the mystery and the sheer beauty of Arnhem Land. Over the course of the camp he worked closely with Aboriginal artists, visiting rock art sites and learning about their culture, which led to his interest in the similarities between Aboriginal culture and the Taoist philosophy of ancient China. Being in the outback also made him reflect on Australia during colonial times and the early European depictions of the desert as a “harsh, savage, cruel and deserted place.” He comments “Australia was rarely seen as the setting of a rich Aboriginal history and stories.”


MAGNT has launched an appeal to purchase a key work from the series, ‘A Mysterious Land No. 9,’ with recognisable Territory features including a termite mound and menacing crocodile. Guan Wei’s signature faceless men hide in the scrub their gaping mouths expressing the terror they feel. For Guan Wei even the trees in the outback could be threatening. Inexperienced in the ways of the bush he recalls setting up his tent under a gnarled old tree. On the advice of another artist he moved his tent the next day and the following night a big branch crashed to the ground during high winds right over the spot where the tent was originally pitched. A broken branch stump in the painting recalls this event. Despite his initial misgivings, the outback had a powerful resonance for Guan Wei and he hopes that through his painting people might reacquaint themselves with nature, even return to nature.


MAGNT have the exciting opportunity to acquire this significant work. Assistant Director Louise Tegart observed the importance of building the collection of artworks with major acquisitions of significant artists that have a NT focus.


'The MAGNT collection is part of the nationally distributed collection and belongs to the people of the Northern Territory. It is a record of artistic practice in the NT and is an insight into cultural responses to this diverse landscape. Guan Wei’s painting ‘A Mysterious Land No. 9’ is an important example of this and acquiring the work joins it with other works of the NT by significant artists. Growing the collection in turn evolves our understanding of what is truly unique about where we live, and fosters the endless creative possibilities for future generations.'

Wendy Garden


For a confidential discussion about your support

Phone +61 (08) 8999 8207


Development Manager


GPO Box 4646

Darwin NT 0801

Please reload

  • Facebook - Black Circle
  • Twitter - Black Circle
  • YouTube - Black Circle
  • Instagram - Black Circle

Guan Wei at the Culture Trackers Artist Camp in 2006


Museum and Art Gallery
of the Northern Territory

GPO Box 4646,
Darwin NT 0801

+61 8 8999 8264
Join our mailing list
MAGNT acknowledges the traditional owners of country across the Northern Territory and beyond, and pays respect to Elders past, present and emerging.
  • Facebook
  • Instagram - White Circle
  • Twitter - White Circle

ABN  22 932 713 682