Gao Xiao Wu born in Sanming in south Chinaâ€™s Fujian province. Gao majored in sculpture in Art Academy in Xiamen before furthering his studies at Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing.
Gao's works are not only based on the lives of ordinary people living in the city, they also serve as an exploration of his own identity. Although he was born in the 1970's, his artistic creation resembles those who were born a decade later. He does not try to express ambitious aspirations that concern the country nor complains about the current situation. Instead, he is more concerned about the happiness and grief in his everyday life. He is posturing for his own aesthetic view. Gao's aesthetics fall into the generation of comics and cartoons. He is one of the representative sculptors in these new trends. His creation avoids political symbols and totem. Gao, like other 1980s artists,spontaneously returned to the nature of artistic creation, pursuing their own aesthetic display of expressing the interest achieved by content and medium.
The posture of Gao Xiao Wuâ€™s Standard Times sculptures is the first thing that strikes the viewer about Gaoâ€™s sculptures. Gao's work is an expression of reverence that he sees as innately Asian, and in an act similar to a genuflect, the personification of respect transcends to the motion of bending forward. Often the erect form is the norm and yet in this work, the intention of the artist manifests through the choice of the overarching form of the figures. In a similar way, the smile to serves the purpose of demonstrating congenial attitudes. The viewer though is left to ponder if this is where the interpretation stops or if the works reflect a satire on the current social-political position of the Chinese. This is still left ambiguous, but whatever idea the viewer chooses to infer from the art, the result is that one is definitely moved by it. In 2008, Gao Xiaowu's sculptures were acquired as the main piece for the newly renovated DBS's Shenton Way banking hall in Singapore.
Gao Xiao Wuâ€™s pieces are a reflection of modern Chinese society, and portray innately Asian behavioral norms and mental attitudes that combine to create a collective Asian identity. Where Gao Xiao Wuâ€™s Standard Times series is angular and appeals to a pleasure of visual symmetry as a set of three, his City Dreams series contains pieces that can be enjoyed both individually or collectively with its freer and more joyous form of expression through softer silhouettes. The roundness of the figures suggest content and existence in a state of complete bliss. Featuring a man in a tuxedo, a young executive in a tie and a boy of different dreams, it tells of how the pursuit of happiness occupies the mind of every city dweller; man or woman, regardless of age or social standing. Gao questions our notions of true happiness and suggests that our souls have to be enriched first before the physical body can achieve a whole sense of happiness. Gaoâ€™s pieces can be interpreted in various ways,but one thing is for certain: his delightful pieces bring a smile to all their viewers. City dwellers musing at city folk chasing their dreams.
Out of Essence - Gao Xiaowuâ€™s Pictorial life
â€śManâ€™s true essence is never changed by time and space; otherwise it is not essence. However, under different time or space, people always show characteristics of different age or region. Therefore, any surface phenomenon is temporary and blurry.
I feel lucky to live here in the present. When I explore manâ€™s true essence, I see all kinds of lives at the moment. Mixed feelings well up in my heart. From my personal perspective, I seek the intrinsic connection of the meaning of life through different time and space, while pondering about the value of life.
I am lucky because I can capture what I have seen, heard, thought and felt, by demonstrating my existence through art. â€ś
Gao Xiaowu was born in 1976 in Sanming, Fujian Province and graduated in 1999 from the Department of Sculpture at the Xiamen Academy of Arts and Crafts in Fujian. He then lived in the Xiamen Special Economic Zone for eight and a half years. Unlike other artists, he has experienced early exposure to the rapid social transformation, impacts from the economic development, disparity between the rich and the poor, and struggles among ordinary people. Such changes in the environment and the arduous struggle of life stimulated his observation of the surroundings. Hence, his inspiration for artistic creation is conveyed through his inner emotion, pressure, and rigidity.
Relocating to Beijing from Fujian was a turning point in Gao Xiaowuâ€™s artistic life. In 2004, he graduated from the Department of Sculpture at the Central Academy of Fine Arts and he gradually developed a unique style. Back in his hometown, Gao used to be engaged in the creation of public sculptures and other multimedia sculptures, which helped him develop his skills and technique. He became famous in Beijing for his Standard Times series, which illustrated that he saw life through rose-colored spectacles. Unlike all the other artists who came to Beijing from other places and struggled to survive, Gao was set apart by his kindness in helping others, humbleness and self-awareness. There is a tenacious power and ambitious force within his heart that gives him the support in facing all the difficulties that surround him. His distinctive sense of humor is not only revealed in the expression on his face, but also throughout his artwork.
His masterpiece, Standard Times, depicts the ingratiating greeting posture of two male and one female white-collar employees who are smiling at each other, ear to ear. It is a sketch created for the people around him. Standard Times is what he considers the â€śComputer Ageâ€ť nowadays. Man has experienced the standardized production process of the Industrial Revolution and now entered a digital age of the microelectronics revolution. Manâ€™s thinking has also been formatted. The more developed and modernized a society is, the more restriction it will face due to â€śstandardizationâ€ť: from the standardization of products in the Industrial Revolution to the standardization of human behavior. in the microelectronics revolution. The idea of standardization is spread universally. Even the seemingly noble class of white-collar workers could not escape the standardization of human behavior. They must also show the standard service behavior. with a servile or obsequious bow and smile. Gao believes that the root cause is the overwhelming restrictions on standardized behavior. that triggers the pressure in human beings today.
His figurative statues illustrate the standard posture and smile, which constitutes his standardized pictorial symbols and facial expressions. It is his pictorial language that affects the hearts of the common people during the rapid economic development in China.
The City Dreams series attempts to break through the constraints of standardized behavior, in which the body of a pipsqueak expands into a big balloon with a pair of small wings and expressing a standardized smile that is distinctive in Gaoâ€™s art. He is dreaming that he could fly high in the sky like an angel. However, in reality, his clumsy body is unwieldy and his little swings canâ€™t support its weight. This represents the helplessness of those living in the metropolitan area, but they never give up their dreams even if that means their dreams conflict with reality. Gao writes:
Everyone is born naive and romantic
There is nothing more beautiful in the world than this
Men created civilizations
Meanwhile, we are distancing away from our most beautiful human nature
If the dream I had in my childhood when I was in the countryside was the city
Then the dream I had dreamt while I was in the city was the countryside
I am busy and tired
I live in the real world
From Standard Times to City Dreams to Our Generation, these series of artworks are not only based on the lives of ordinary people living in the city, but also serve as an exploration of his own identity. Although he was born in the 1970s, his artistic creation resembles those who were born in the 1980s. He does not try to express ambitious aspirations that concern the country nor complains about the current situation. Instead, he is more concerned about the happiness and grief in his own everyday life. He is posturing for his own aesthetic view. Our Generation reflects those who were born in the 1980s who were portrayed as being naĂŻve. It plays with symbolic gestures in a way that makes them feel cool and it goes beyond gender and race. In Gaoâ€™s words: â€śWe are the blog-generation. By speaking several languages, taking various postures, displaying different types of identities and in assorted manners, we are able to develop numerous talents, play international jokes, dream of countless cities, and use the universal slangs â€śOK! Hello! Bye-bye! Thank you! No!â€ť
Our Generation seems to show Gaoâ€™s late adolescence. He is liberated from the constrained mood of self-mockery, and simply interprets the desire for communication when boys are in puppy love. That is humorous, relaxing and uncritical. In his 2007 series Fell Asleep, he disclosed the reason why his creation has changed: Gao Xiaowu is in love! He canâ€™t help laughing out happily, and eventually he gets married with his heroine in the Fell Asleep. The sleeping position is a metaphor for being able to go beyond the real world, and the sleeping status is a pure state without disturbances from worldly pursuits. Fell Asleep is not only a betrothal gift for his dear wife Liu Xiaoying.
Gaoâ€™s aesthetics fall into the generation of comics and cartoons. He is one of the representative sculptors in the new trend of Animamix Aethetics that the author has been working on. His creations avoid political symbols or totem. Gao and other artists from the 1980s generation have spontaneously returned to the nature of artistic creation, pursuing their own aesthetic display of expressing the interest achieved by content and medium. The international aesthetics they exhibit is different from the generation of Political Pop, which emphasizes Chinese-styles through political motifs. Most artists of the new generation, including Gao Xiaowu, are narcissistic. Influenced by their environment, they change their creations frequently and invent pictorial symbols for themselves and not for the nation or politics. Gao goes beyond his own pictorial symbols from the early Gao-type smile generated by the exaggerated and ordinary people to the most recently released sleeping couple. Aside from creating the essence from the figures, he also records his love story freely by creating sculptures.
Out of the essence of art, we can distinguish the freshness of â€śthe love of lifeâ€ť from Gao Xiaowuâ€™s artworks. Having such talents in expression enable him to make better art.
Interpreting Gao Xiaowuâ€™s sculptural art
Gao Xiaowu leaves me with the impression that he is perpetually smiling. He has been welcomed very often by his fellow people, based on the Chinese notion that â€śOneâ€™s face tells oneâ€™s heartâ€ť. His sculptural works are stylish and humorous in an exaggerated manner, with warm smiling faces classically embedded in his work.
Comedy is unveiled through white-collar workers standing in Beijingâ€™s Jianwai SoHo, bowed with a wide smile in his work â€śThe Standard Timesâ€ť. Gao Xiaowu enters the center stage through his expression in terms of contemporary art creativity, which has been widely accepted and recognized by the art circle.
The work â€śThe Standard Timesâ€ť is a physical representation of the world-wide infiltration of standardized services with the onset of globalization. These services are costly and evokes mixed feelings from an audience who view his works; although the people depicted through the sculptures are laughing, there is an inherent sense of helplessness.
â€śCity Dreamâ€ť depicts chubby, smiling angels which are liked by many viewers. The image of a round body invoke images of inflating desires, such as how commercial advertisements float through the air, while consumers indulge in helpless and uncontrolled desires for the material. The gigantic bodies which are heavy in weight express an eagerness to fly with their tiny wings, creating a clash between the material and spirit, ideals and reality; in an attempt to showcase the subversive paranoia by his ironic and humorous expressions. It gives a flavor of cynicism.
If to say that the works â€śPost Standard Timesâ€ť and â€śCity Dreamâ€ť are signifiers of Gao Xiaowuâ€™s â€śinward emotionsâ€ť, these actually stemmed from his earlier creations since the artistâ€™s days in school, which then evolved into contemplation on society. His later works â€śOur Generationâ€ť and â€śAll Asleepâ€ť thus signify his transition in expression into a â€śmood of youthâ€ť: cognition and contemplation towards a generation of future fashion and of cartoons and animation. The style of cartoons and animation aim to inspire and revive the imagination of the audience, by completely throwing away the spiritual rubbish remains of contemporary art left in history, and targeting the future. The conceptual metaphor and cartoon images embedded in Gaoâ€™s work have a strong preference, and are full of characters one can find in this era of time. Time-washed details are shaped in and out of his workâ€™s surfaces, and are filled and weakened with air, defining historical waste in an ironical and joyful humor reflected in an era that is full of sense of collectivism.
In â€śOur Generationâ€ť, the artist uses the body language of adolescences rather than an exaggerated expression to highlight the dilemma of contemporary languages, brought up by oneâ€™s own cultural roots and globalization under the governance of western discourse power. He intends to evoke a rethinking of the role of education his generation has received. In â€śAll Asleepâ€ť, the richly colored images were depicted with a tinge of paranoia, showcasing the detailing of different situations of people from a great variety of social classes, i.e., the image of oneâ€™s head surrounded by lots of meaningless saliva out of his or her mouth, which has constructed colourful clouds in a floating and dreamy way. Is it avid? Or indulged in the future? Or an avoidance of the present situation? The work â€śAll Asleepâ€ť is a new mirror to depict the child-like China.
Gao Xiaowu was born in Datian, Fujian Province of China. Honesty and purity are two characters often found in his cultural and geographical background. The characteristics of nature and honesty are popular in his hometown, and noise and restlessness in an urban life is constructed in contrast, in which Gao Xiaowu has tried always to retain a balance between the two. One can tell from the title â€śOur Generationâ€ť that Gao Xiaowu has possessed a sense of self-identification which is different from those artists born in the 1960s or 70s of last century. The artists born in those periods of time quite often felt unsure about their own identity, and one can often find a sense of â€śangry youthâ€ť in them. The artist rather focuses on the aesthetic needs and feelings of the new-generation artists born in the 1980s; his work revealed this rational thinking. Thus, the unique style the artist has developed through his work is mild but not rustic, showy but not cheesy. As of contemporary art renowned for its radical and critical nature, the fun shown through Gaoâ€™s work has allowed our viewers to experience art by â€śswimming in the games of artâ€ť in a contemporary sense.
Written by Hong Shunzhang
in Daoist Garden, Beijing in Spring 2008
|2010||Aniamix Biennial (Dazzled and Enchanted New Age Animamix), Guangzhou|
|Environmental Art Festival, Beijing|
|Jing'An International Sculpture Project, Shanghai|
|China Youth and Midlife Artists Commending Exhibition, Shanghai|
|Start Art Museum, Beijing|
|2009||Hong Kong Art Fair, Hong Kong|
|2008||GaoXiaowu's Sculpture Solo Exhibition, Taiwan|
|Art Basel Miami Beach, America|
|SongZhuang Art Festival, Beijing, China|
|798 Art Festival , Beijing, China|
|The second Asia Pacific Contemporary Art Fair , Shanghai, China|
|The Third Nanjing Triennial, Nanjing, China|
|2007||Â«Our GenerationÂ»GaoXiaowuâ€™s Sculpture Solo exhibition, Beijing, China|
|FESTIVAL INTERNATIONAL-EXIT-â€śANIMANGAâ€ť Paris, France|
|2006||Chinese Art Today 2006 Exhibition, Beijing, China|
|Art Singapore2006 , Singapore|
|Cheonggyecheon Arts Festival, Korea|
|2005||Beijing international art biennale, Beijing, China|
|2003||The competition of Olympic sports and art , Beijing, China|