“I hope to counteract the anxiety and confusion that modern society creates in people.”

Born 1964, Jining, Shandong. Lives and works in Shanghai and Beijing

A Christian and a lifelong student of Chinese philosophers such as Confucius and Chuang-Tzu (Zhuangzi), Gao Ge—who is also an art professor—says his artistic practice is far more than a pastime: it is the source of his values and “the meaning of my life”. The Order series (2006 and 2007) forms a kind of diary; each painting took about a month to complete and recorded what the artist describes as a process of “self-reflection”. The large circular shapes, centred on squares of “cloudy dragon” paper, represent the ancient concept of “round heaven and square earth”: the limitless spiritual world and the limited human world, which depend on each other and are ultimately one. Expanding from a blurred core to a hazy rim, each circle is filled with countless short curves and flecks in different shades of the same muted colour. For Trinity (2010-2013), he cut a wizened tree trunk in two, removed a thin slice from the top of one half, and carved into it a Chinese translation of Revelation 1:8: “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” All three sections were then carbonised with a blowtorch, becoming permanent symbols of the Holy Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three persons in one God. Root (2011) fuses a similarly blackened tree trunk with a crucifix. The tall shoot evokes the instrument of Christ’s death while hinting at the new life the resurrected Saviour offers to deadened, death-bound souls. Making all these works was for the artist an exercise in patience, discipline and faith as well as technical skill: “I had to stay calm and try to avoid any self-doubt. I wanted to search for a ‘pure spirit’ within me.”


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