In the context of discussions on the “contemporary art” emerging in recent years, Chinese art can be said to have offered something new within its distinctive characteristics and creativity. If it is in fact possible to observe this historic shift and transformation by focusing on any one artist, then perhaps the work of Guo Wei would offer a means of doing so.
A 1989 graduate of the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute(四川美術學院), Guo is part of the generation that personally witnessed the “1985 art movement” with all the resistance and passion of someone in his twenties. Nourishing himself on the pictorial approach of social realism, Guo applies methods that use his own body to express the turbulent emotions experienced in his socialist homeland. Guo reveals his feelings not through coarse, intense brushwork, but through strokes of speed and spontaneity. With that speed of stroke, he offers a canvas that generates a serene harmony from gestures that demolish social and political norms – while also seeming to question themselves. It is work that distinguishes “human figures” from “humankind”: images from around us that appear through mass media or individual reproduction are represented as human figures, while humankind takes the form of bodies that cannot be identified as anyone in particular.
In the paintings of Guo Wei, “real” and “virtual” may be described as a space where the reality of the original meets the imaginary of the objet, a new realm of painting that adheres thoroughly to the two-dimensional. For the artist, the human being may be viewed as a process of recognition: returned to the everyday forms of the past, while reaffirming the artist’s own consciousness. In shifting these human shapes to humankind, he moves from subjective “human” to anonymous “humankind,” showing them faced with a new age. In this way, Guo may be seen as an artist possessing his own distinctive pictorial qualities – someone blazing a trail against a new current.
Researcher, Center for Art Studies, Korea / Visiting Professor, Tainan National University of the Arts, Taiwan
‘A Human towards Humanity: Reality and the Processed World in the Paintings of Guo Wei’