After 2013, Gao Yu didn’t have any solo exhibitions. He shaked off the dust, went back to Chongqing from Beijing, opened a bar by the Jialing River “Mr. Tipsy”. This drink about going home, he has drunk more than four years, drinking and drinking, he saw Long Museum standing across the river someday. “If there is an exhibition at the opposite side of the river, it is necessary to get a LED panda to run on the whole building, even alive in the evening.” Gao Yu drunk a glass of whisky, spit this drunk word. When he said that, a panda ran out across the river, I must be drunk.
Gao Yu’s studio in Chongqing is not big, a floor fan could stand the summer. When I visited him, two assistants are completing the inking and rubbing part of the woodcut print painting Reform the Loafers. The wood board has a large volume, the carving is very complex, uneven situation couldn’t avoid, the assistant were very careful, fearing of touching the compulsive nerves of Boss Gao, and have to come over once more.
The studio is rough, messy, not like the delicacy of Gao Yu’s outfit. He wears a suit vest when he paints, with polished shoes, if painting oil drops on it, it will be a big thing with raging fire. In this perfect tailored, compact even without leaving no room outfit, what a kind of soul lives inside? Watching him passing through the noisy streets of Chongqing, I thought, this man is perhaps too close to the chaotic reality, and too far away in the same time.
“Unreality II” is the result of Gao Yu four years’ living along back in Chongqing’s street life, it’s the inevitable self re-positioning in the isolated island of creation. Around 2012, he began to look for the image, text and history consisting China today’s ideology from the visual system of China traditional painting and folk art, in the grand narrative, he placed himself in the dissociated height, righteousness above family loyaty – this is in the former exhibition “Unrealisty”, the world constructed in “King Yu Tamed the Flood” and “Moving Mountains “, “Dragon Slaying”.
But different from the state of “Dragon Slaying” in 2012, Gao Yu said he is no longer an angry young man, but a desperate middle-aged man. I take “despair” as the result of these years of hard work – the reality noticed in the depths of real world by immersing in the daily life. Touching the truth, means to have to face yourself and face up to the fact that you don’t want to admit it. For Gao Yu, this “admission” means the reconstruction of major relationships – divorce, returning to individual creation and the study to complex factors behind Chinese ideology… All these, is like the boy to lay down “Dragon Slayer” knife, and become a Buddha “Investigate a Topic” kind of words, are all in the works.
Gao Yu said, today’s society has been verified in George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Hexley’s Brave New world at the same time. We are forced to love things we may not love, we are forced to exercise the right that we may not believe – “violence control” and “entertainment to death” has the same outcome, people define happiness in the double design of “limited” and “planned”. The wonders that Gao Yu saw from it, has the popular “Chicken Blood Therapy” in the Cultural Revolution, and Wang Shikuo’s “Reforming the Loafers”; the Chang’e myth rewrite by Chinese spaceflight, also the consolation brought by the porn industry in the Internet era… The information related to the times and fate is buried in the old artist’s comic manuscript, the calendar posters hanging in people’s home, the debates and fight about “ultra-left” or “ultra-right” under the top-set current news of Weibo, the live Webcast stars overgrown on the internet, the Wechat circles that can’t read enough, can’t delete them all… This is the Gao Yu’ daily, also our daily.
Accordingly, the path close to reality is not only in the life, but also in the creation itself. The narrative is grand, Gao Yu painting exhausted the way of painting to response to previous experience. He said, that the world has nothing new, so he chooses the image and text in the collective memory to involve in the creation. The text on the work is as important as the paint on the picture, which form the narrative space and the reading experience in the mean time. Gao Yu has changed the past manufacturing process in crafted artisan style, he regains the fun in calligraphy and painting. Of course, he has also chosen other ways, such as woodcut, wood carving, acrylic spray, robot device and so on, in his words, “Chinese painting, oil, print, sculpture” all come in.
Diversification in the method doesn’t mean the subversion of the language itself, even though the looking of these works is so different. An important part of understanding art is the definition of classical. In the eyes of Gao Yu, well ingrained reading and viewing, could build a classic concept. To him, tracing from comic books, picture books and calendar back to the folk art, looks like you can find the answer. These visual experiences not only affect the independent aesthetic of a line, but also the important evidence of why the world looks like this today.
Because no longer demanding process and details like before, also no longer clinging to the language itself, Gao Yu lives much more comfortable. When he gives the Jade Rabbit on the Moon life, it took hundreds of thousands to make his own Jade Rabbit robot; when he needs to use acrylic to spray paint the picture effect of 80s last century, he invited well-known spray painting professionals to complete the creation together; when he needs to use the sketch texture to echo the realistic situation of “Orwell” and “Huxley”, he painted in the picture all the way to the end; and even wood craving, are finished by the workers independently according to a draft manuscript…
In the work Longing, the little boy lying on the grass looks into the distance, his face is 1.6 meters wide. “Total blank when painting, nothing,” Gao Yu told me. So when we talk about the “unrealistic” nothingness in the reality, is it void? People are easy to despair when drunk, and Gao Yu chooses to talk about reality in perpetual drunk.