Gao Brothers

5 Jun — 18 Sep 2013 at Hua Gallery

16 MAY 2013
The Forever Unfinished Building No.4, 2008, 160 x 54cm Photograph
The Forever Unfinished Building No.4, 2008, 160 x 54cm Photograph

Hua Gallery is honoured to announce the exhibition of internationally recognised Chinese artists the Gao Brothers. Between Spiritual and Material Spaces: the Photographic World of the Gao Brothers features a series of artworks created from 2000 to 2008, which focus on the relationships between the individual and the spiritual and material spaces he lives in.

Beijing-based artists the Gao Brothers have since the middle of the 1980s acquired their reputation thanks to innumerable artworks and projects of a political nature and humanitarian stance. Dissident and controversial, the Gao Brothers are some of those artists who personally experienced the events of the Cultural Revolution, by which they have been deeply affected. Their art develops in the post-Mao era and questions the role of the individual within society, bringing to light social issues and delving into the complex nature of human beings. Leading the viewer to reflect about the notion of “social responsibility” their artistic creations also become an "allegory of human emotions". Their art is not only a social commentary but it also presents itself as a manifestation of romantic spiritualism and intense human values. Their wide body of work covers a large spectrum of media, which includes photography, oil painting, installation, sculpture and performance.

Between Spiritual and Material Spaces: the Photographic World of the Gao Brothers brings together a series of artistic creations whose focal point is the relationship between the individual and his/her own spiritual and material spaces.

Through the medium of photography the Gao Brothers delve into a realm ruled by the imaginary and the real, creating a dimension which is both magical and ordinary at the same time. This is what characterises the series The Forever Unfinished Building where people from different social classes, sex and beliefs are sharing the same spaces, occupying the most hidden corners of this endless labyrinth. Reminiscent of Escher’s compositions here the Gao Brothers’ images seem to re-create fragments of lives where the characters are experiencing everyday and ordinary feelings. Solitude, melancholy, curiosity, happiness, indifference are just some of the states which permeate this bleak yet enchanted scenario. As a clear criticism of rampant Chinese progress, here attention is brought to the consequent isolation of people who suffer from urban solitude. By leading the viewer between these spaces the Gao Brothers allow us to glimpse some slices of Chinese contemporary life.

A similar sense of loneliness is conveyed in Silent Space where the presence of two human beings merges with the absence of a solid spiritual belief. As a frantic construction of new buildings and an increase of consumerism develops, the individual is either drawn into the exhilarating vortex of modernity or he finds himself naked and vulnerable in front of this unbridled urban chaos, thus questioning the current spiritual vacuum. In Outer Project - Map of China, innumerable little cells populated by many different people create a honeycomb whose perimeter forms the shape of China itself. The individuals are here trapped in a hierarchical system with limited and tiny areas defining their living spaces. The space expands in The New World of Nuclear Cloud Shape, a green and blue utopian vision inhabited by religious figures, ordinary people and eminent characters. Here the Gao Brothers create a work imbued with faith and idealism as the destructive artificial power of man turns into a fresh and natural cloud, becoming a symbol of hope and spiritual regeneration for the entirety of mankind.

Among the innumerable figures present in these photographic creations the nude plays a major role. Despite Chinese cultural taboos of nudity, the Gao Brothers’ work often makes use of bodies completely or partially revealed. In works such as Echo, Lonely Summer and Black Space the bodies are far from being a flaunting of the nude; rather they are a “laying bare of humanity itself.” 3 Embraced by urban environments and emerging from dark backgrounds these bodies evoke pure and uncontaminated states of mind, leading the viewer to penetrate the vulnerability of human beings and to explore between spiritual and material spaces.

Text by Dagmar Carnevale Lavezzoli