1990 · China
About You Gu's works
You Gu is a key figure within the fields of Figuration, Expressionism and Digital. Some world-renowned artists praised for their figurative artworks include Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso or Paul Cézanne. Figurative art is a rather broad category, which can be simply designated as being the farthest from abstract art, since it essentially consists of the representation of objects or figures holding a strong reference to reality. Although it can be described as such, Figurative art nonetheless remains highly resourceful and imaginative, encompassing a variety of styles and mediums, ranging from Photorealism to Neo-expressionism.
While Expressionism is typically more evocative of an international trend rather than a coherent art movement, its essence can be grounded in a desire from the artists to define and express their emotions, rather than just depict a representation of reality. In Expressionist paintings, the brushwork is often liberated and uncontrolled, as to transpire the artist’s inner emotions, while a focus is put on textures and intense colours come into play, thus permitting art to be rewritten and bear the message the expressionist artist is trying to deliver. Edvard Munch’s painting The Scream is highly representative of Expressionism, as it strongly illustrates the artist’s feeling of deep angst and alienation.
Digital art can be understood as twofold - digital technology can be the medium used to create artworks, but it can also be the end in itself. In both cases, digital art entails that computer processing is involved in the making, or presentation, of the artwork. Sometimes referred to as “new-media art”, digital art fundamentally challenges the borders between technology and art and grants the artists a new kind of freedom, never experienced before. Digital art can also include installations, which offers the viewer an interactive experience. First introduced in the 1980s, with artists such as Harold Cohen and Andy Warhol as pioneers of the genre, digital art will keep evolving, as technology endlessly progresses and becomes more sophisticated.
At present on Artland, 34 of You Gu's works are available to purchase.
Historical Context of China
A leader in technology and technical innovation in both the arts and sciences, China and its artisans have pioneered many astonishing innovations. For instance, true porcelain, with kaolin as the key ingredient, was developed in China in the early 1300s. It would not be developed in Europe with the same technical quality and physical properties until 1722, when the Meissen factory in Germany also uncovered the secrets of the recipe.
For centuries, China has been one of the most sophisticated and artistic cultures. Unique in its political and cultural systems, and rather hermetic in nature, it has always been somewhat of an enigma to the west.
Modern art production, when not concentrating on celebrating the ideals of the State, instead reworked many of the classical ideals of Calligraphic ink works made with the brush.
In the Maoist era, which would last for decades from the mid-century period, art and culture served the revolutionary communism of Chairman Mao, brimming with the heroic figures of social realism and various propagandist ideals.
In the modern period, China has remained largely behind its own closed doors. An Imperial power with centuries old traditions until the start of the 20th century, China was subsequently wracked by civil war as Chiang Kai Shek battled the forces of Mao Zedong for the control of this immense country, its people and resources.
Important Chinese artists whose works can be said to be truly modernist in the context of western and global artistic movements include Sanyu and Zao Wou-Ki.
Further Biographical Context for You Gu
You Gu was born in 1990 and was predominantly inspired by the 1990s. In the United Kingdom, a group of artists known as the YBAs, or Young British Artists, dominated the artistic culture of the decade. They were a loosely affiliated and diverse group, connected generally by their age and nationality. Many of the members had attended the Royal College of Art and Goldsmiths in London, and were favoured by Charles Saatchi, the ‘super collector’ of art at the time. The most famous member of YBAs is arguably Damien Hirst, and other members included Chris Ofili, Tracey Emin, Marc Quinn, Gavin Turk, Sarah Lucas and Sam Taylor-Johnson (née Sam Taylor-Wood). Through their use of shock tactics and sensationalism, the YBAs garnered a divisive public image which was further fuelled by their use of throwaway materials, wild lifestyles and an attitude that was at the same time rebellious and entrepreneurial. The group dominated the British art scene in the 1990s and their group show ‘Sensation’ is now viewed as legendary.
Relational Aesthetics, a term coined by curator Nicholas Bourriaud to describe the act of making art based on human relations and their social context, became a central idea in the 1990s. Works by artists including Douglas Gordon, Gillian Wearing, Philippe Parenno and Liam Gillick were described as significant artists who worked to this idea.
The rise of consumerism and advertising that took place in the 1980s influenced a trend in Japan that developed into the art form of manga, which was visually influenced by trends in advertising and graphic design. Takashi Murakami arose as a prominent figure in the art world, coining the term ‘Superflat’ to describe a theory inspired by the aesthetic characteristics of manga and the nature of post-war Japanese culture. Murakami went on to found the influential Kaikai Kiki group, which was inspired by his experiences living in New York City in the mid-1990s.
The art world was influenced by a number of trends throughout the decade, the divisive, hyper-realistic sculptures of Maurizio Cattelan and the sensitive, conceptual work of Felix Gonzalez-Torres epitomised the atmosphere of the era.
German artists and ideas strongly influenced trends in conceptual photography during this time. German artists such as Andreas Gursky, Thomas Struth, and Wolfgang Tillmans gained major recognition, and inspired international artists such as the Canadian Jeff Wall, who created images with a cinematic expressiveness that were inspired by the themes present in the German artists’ work. At the same time, Albert Oehlen and Martin Kippenberger gained influential status in the field of painting.
- Galleries Representing this Artist