Le Guo


Presenting brand new works by the globally recognised Gao Brothers and up and coming fresh talent Le Guo, this exhibition offers a glimpse into the beauty and vibrant energy of contemporary Chinese abstraction, may it be photography or painting. Despite the diversity of their backgrounds and the media they employ, the artists create works with some outstanding similarities; works whose aesthetics complement each other, revealing an organic sense of unity between forms, colours and inspirations. As a response to the violence of current historical events and to the cynicism and commercialisation of the art started with the era of Andy Warhol in the 1960s, the Gao Brothers and Le Guo foster an enthusiastic and sparkling new vision of human existence, evoking expressionist experiences rich in poetry and magic.

Collected by worldwide prestigious museums such as the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Saatchi Gallery in London, the China National Museum in Beijing and the Moma in San Francisco, Beijing-based artists the Gao Brothers have steadily accrued notoriety since the mid-1980s, largely thanks to a wide range of artworks and projects of a political nature and humanitarian stance. Their art, associated with Joseph Beuys' notion of "social sculpture"1, is a metaphor of political and collective memories and is also centred around intimate and individual themes, resulting in what art critic Bérénice Angremy defines as an "allegory of human emotions"2.

London-based artist Le Guo has been living in England for the past twenty years and has since presented his art at important venues such as Barbican Centre, Sotheby's Institute of Art and The British Museum. His abstract paintings reveal influences by both Western Expressionism and Surrealism as well as a profound understanding of ancient Eastern philosophies, like Taoism. Le Guo's art does not aim to fix a precise concept, and nor does it intend to provide the viewer with a final image. On the contrary his creations present a multitude of shapes, in which mutability permeates the canvas and continuously originates new forms and possibilities.

By exploring the potential of photography, in this new series of works the Gao Brothers create visions that hint at the natural world, the qualities of light and shadow, the infinitude of space, as well as expressing their concern for environmental issues and their desire to reconnect to nature in its purest form. There is a sense of transformation and repetition running through the images, an artistic visualisation of the spontaneous continuity conveyed by director Kim Ki-duk in his renowned film "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring"3. In these photographs cyclic patterns evoke the rhythm of nature, reflecting its tension between the areas of colour and the sketchy lines. Reminiscent of Gerard Richter's modulated brushstrokes of dark greens and browns, the Gao Brothers's creations filter the external and re-elaborate it through a personal and non-descriptive language, alluding to the evocative possibilities of painterly abstraction in photography.

Differently, Le Guo employs oil, acrylic and ink on canvas or paper. His work presents a continuous dialogue between outward forces and inward impulses, perceived by the artist as energy of nature and human spirit. Through dynamic penetrations of light and interplays of colours, his paintings oscillate between prismatic fragmentations and vibrant brushstrokes. The paint textures created may be sensuous or plain, coarse or smooth, even or inconsistent. Evoking a sense of dynamism, once portrayed by Umberto Boccioni, and gestural movements reminiscent of Hans Hartung, Le Guo's artwork skilfully captures a modern perception of motion through spontaneous yet rhythmic gestures.

Creating a visual resonance while preserving their own artistic identity, the Gao Brothers' and Le Guo's creations convey a fresh quality of sensuality, celebrating new harmonies expanding towards a dynamic rhythm of balanced energies.

Dagmar Carnevale Lavezzoli
Contemporary Chinese Art Specialist

1Joseph Beuys (1921-1986) created the term Social Sculpture to express his idea of art's potential to shape society. As an artwork, a social sculpture includes human activity that strives to transform society or the environment. An example is his activity of planting 7000 oak trees in the city of Kas-sel. The Gao Brothers also foster this concept and since 2000 they have been inviting strangers to embrace each other in some major cities. This activity is renowned as their performance of “Utopia of 20 Minutes of Embrace”.
2Angremy, Bérénice, “Photography as an Allegory of Human Emotion”, Le Passage du Temps, Galerie Guislain Etat d'Art, Paris, 2006
3Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…an Spring (also known as Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter…an Spring) is a 2003 South Korean film directed by Kim Ki-duk. The story is centred on the life of a Buddhist monk as he passes through the seasons of his life, from childhood to old age.