Renowned Chinese-Australian artist Jiawei Shen is painting a monumental artwork that he claims will give meaning to his whole life. This former Red Guard, still famous in China for painting one of the most famous images of the Cultural Revolution, Standing Guard For The Great Motherland, is now creating a fantastic parable of the history of Communism, in the style that has established him as the foremost history painter in Australia today.
Epic in concept and scale, his Tower of Babel painting depicts over 400 famous and infamous characters including politicians, soldiers, scientists, artists, writers and filmmakers won over by the utopian vision of the Communist movement, as well as many forgotten people who lost their lives to Revolution. It also includes remixes of 130 iconic artworks by left wing artists, including Picasso, Matisse, Léger, Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo; on a huge canvas of 130 square meters, as high as a 3-story building.
In telling the stories of Jiawei’s own personal journey and that of his wife Lan, from poverty in Mao’s China, through the tumult of the Cultural Revolution, and eventually as political refugees to Australia, the film will show how personal biography inspires art. Now, as tensions between Australia and China escalate and there is even talk of war from some Australian politicians, how will Jiawei’s most important work be received? Can the past speak to the present or will it be silenced?