Born 1977, Changsha, Hunan. Lives and works in Changsha

Liao Guohe paints “badly” in both senses: crudely and naughtily. Crude, however, does not mean artless. Liao Guohe’s slapdashery is deliberate and controlled. He reduces each idea to a few essential lines, and maximises its punch by doing so. His brutally simplified imagery resonates more powerfully than that of many beautiful works. Where classical painters often incorporated poems in their works, he often writes his titles directly on the canvas. The 13th-century artist-poet Zhao Mengfu famously declared that “calligraphy and painting are essentially the same thing”, but it is a great leap from classical verses like “The sky is cold, red leaves are few,” or “The collected peach blossoms happen to enter my thoughts” to Liao Guohe’s Fifth Round Thinking About Bananas and Their Rights: Tell a Smartass Chicken Joke to the Party; Chairman Who, If You Marry the Secretary of State’s Wife You Will Become Chairman Hu, and Drugs, Poisons, Good Living and the Secretary of State. Liao Guohe’s works call to mind graffiti and cartoons, though he vehemently rejects the latter comparison. Together with his “chicken-scratch” brushwork and garish colours, they both portray and comment on a world that has no place for delicate feelings—a Brave New China that is venal, corrupt, obscene and borderline crazy.

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