Between Poetry and Politics: A Conversation with Le Guo

‘My life and art practice inhabit the dichotomous worlds of conflict and balance, proposing solutions within flux, generating fluidity within the fragmented mind,” Le Guo tells us. ‘I conjure a sense of an internal, intuitive, shifting reality attempting to respond to a physical world.’

I first became interested in Le Guo’s work because of his life experiences, having lived in the interesting times of the late ‘80s in China and since the ‘90s in the UK. According to the artist himself, his work bears influence from both Western thinkers and Chinese philosophies and classical art. On a Tuesday afternoon, I met Chinese artist Le Guo in his studio over a cup of coffee to chat about some of his concerns about art, politics, and the poetics. Using what he describes as ‘momentary suspension’, Guo’s paintings continuously pulse and absorb the viewer within their own complex dimensions.

Le Guo was born in Gansu, China, in 1964, and now lives and works in London. He studied at the North West Normal University of China in the early 1980s and received his MFA in Fine Art from Central Saint Martins. He first visited London thanks to the invitation from the Arts Council of Great Britain to exhibit his experimental ink paintings at the Barbican Centre in 1990, and has been living and working in the UK ever since. Apart from delivering lectures at Birkbeck, University of London, the British Museum, and Xi’an Academy of Fine Arts in China, Guo has been exhibiting his work at Asia House, the Rag Factory, Greenwich Heritage Centre, Hua Gallery, and many other UK and international institutions. His most recent exhibitions include the Asia Pavilion at the Milan Design Week (2018), and Changing China: Contemporary Ink Painting in New York, 2017. In 2016, Guo collaborated with the writer and curator Stephen Baycroft in publishing Balancing Different Ways of Seeing and the Art of Le Guo, a book investigating the ways in which Guo’s work is revalued in relation to their discussions conducted in Western and Asian cultures from ancient times to the present day.