Migrations – I am who I am

By Ni Kun

Let us take a rational and direct perspective to look at artist Gu Xiong and his art: he was passionate and restless in the 1980s; In the 1990s, his thoughts turned to immigration and identity; Around the 2000, he initiated dialogues and made comparisons based on a new cultural identity; In the past decade, his attention has turned to the issue of international migrant workers. A journey of migration unfolds in front of our eyes, with items like “enclosure,” “garbage,” “salmon fish,” “rivers,” “tomatoes” and “cardboard boxes” dotted along the way.

In China, the most widely praised art work of Gu Xiong is “Enclosure,” created between year 1986 and 1989. Combing painting, performance art and installation, “Enclosure” is one of the most important art works in the history of China’s avant-garde art. Nevertheless, if we look back upon the forty plus years dedicated to art in Gu’s life, we would know “Enclosure” is only the starting point in his art creation. Behind the artwork, Gu’s experience at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity allows him to touch on an important issue – the meaning of life. Gu first went to Banff Centre in 1986. This experience led to an artistic breakthrough in Gu’s art and the creation of the piece “Enclosure.” When Gu encountered Banff Centre for the second time between 1988 and 1989, Gu Xiong became a Canadian. Since then, for near 30 years, Gu Xiong has walked hand in hand with his art. He uses his art to think and to raise questions. His questions gradually grow from those of individuals and families, to those of identity, to dialogues and reflections on history and cultural transitions, then finally to labour migrations and relocation in the age of globalization. It has been an extended process of cultural reconstruction. Gu’s nonstop pondering starts from minor things, and eventually bears fruit in a foreign country. Art has kept Gu company, permeated his life and empowered him.

“Migrations: Gu Xiong” is an inquiry about migration in life. The art works in exhibited are created over a span of 45 years – starting from the 1972 “Sketches of Sent-down Youths,” and ending with the 2017 “Yellow Cargo – Chongqing.” In the dark era, the sketch pencil picked up by an innocent youth protected his sense of self and independence. Then in 1978, Gu became an university student at the Sichuan Fine Arts Institute, hence starts a nomadic life led by pursuit of art. This gala of art – it is a dialogue, also a gift.

Nevertheless, migration, still goes on in life.

June, 2017