Gao Yu portrait

Gao Yu

China

Born into what he calls an "average" Sichuanese family, Gao Yu was fascinated by Chinese philosophy at an early age, reading Lao Zi's books under covers at night because he wasn't sure if his mother would understand his premature interest. His philosophical tendencies were tempered with a healthy diet of Kung Fu novels, ancient Chinese classics filled with wartime drama, and comics––plenty of comics. These childhood hobbies can perhaps elucidate Gao Yu's body of work: his literary themes were borrowed from the Chinese cannon, his comic - addiction influenced his style and the manner in which he connects his main character across canvases, lastly, certain ancient philosophies have influenced his easy - going manner and let - it - be approach to art.

And there is the panda, otherwise known as "GG." However, the birth of this feisty creature was not one inspired by love, instead by Gao Yu's intense feelings hatred for his sometimes bloody, other times, heroic national symbol. The "lovable," but lazy panda, in his opinion, is better suited to being a stuffed bear, not a symbol of national pride. The adventures of GG and his on again off again girlfriend can be followed across the panels of his very two- dimensional, purely coloured works. In early 2002 he began with painting his ravenous version of the bamboo-chewing bear, and the character stuck with him, reincarnated in what seems to be a loosely autobiographical tale that, instead of appearing on the printed sheets of a comic, unfolds slowly over his canvases. Often the bear's dress embodies classical Chinese themes, or a painting's composition, or the use of a literary title.

Recent experiments with animation have seen this constant companion take the shape of the Monkey King in a legendary battle with a Superman-like figure, and a product design series "Panda Box" sees him reproduced across T-shirts, drinking glasses, sofa chairs and wallpaper, revealing Gao Yu's inherent attraction to pop culture and mass marketing.

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