Wherever I go or live, the society and environment around me will always remain the subjects of my discourse. And my paintings are my discourse.”

Born Lugang, Taiwan, 1949

One of Taiwan’s best-known artists, J.C. Kuo is fascinated by the energy, angst and absurdity that result when civilizations collide. Fuelled by influences as disparate as Freud, Chinese woodcuts, German Expressionism, Pop art, and Taiwanese folklore, he focuses on “big themes such as art, psychology, politics, and social issues”. He selects from a spendthrift’s shopping basket of styles and media—bold outlines, bright colours, paint and fabric, stickers and newsprint, cartoons and landscape—to depict the cultural clangour and pervasive anxiety of contemporary Taiwan. He might present businessmen as Buddhist saints, reimagine Leonardo’s Last Supper as a political conference, or insert fashion models into scenes from old fairy tales. In Since When (2010), a temple guardian, or door god, looms threateningly over a seductive redhead while his counterpart is offered a ripe apple by a pink witch. Below them lurks the grey silhouette of the Shou Xing, a deity who controls the life span of mortal beings. Butterflies—symbols of long life and young love—flit across the baffling scene, to and from cascades of children’s stickers: Snow White, Mickey Mouse, dinosaurs, jewels and racing cars. The effect is a glorious visual indigestion that is simultaneously dazzling and dark, energetic and incoherent—a fair summary, in J.C. Kuo’s view, of Taiwan’s current condition.

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