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

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

A Christian and a lifelong student of Confucius and Chuang-Tzu, Gao Ge says his artistic practice is the source of his values and “the meaning of my life”. His Order paintings (2006 and 2007) form a kind of diary; each 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. 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 …” All three sections were then carbonised with a blowtorch, becoming permanent symbols of the Holy Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Root (2011) fuses a similarly blackened tree trunk with a crucifix. The tall shoot evokes Christ’s agonising death while hinting at his resurrection, and the new life it offers. Making all these works was for Gao Ge an exercise in patience, discipline and faith: “I had to stay calm and try to avoid any self-doubt,” he says. “I wanted to search for a pure spirit within me.”

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