“Unreality”, or “Bù Xiàn Shí”, is a three-charater catchphrase for the contemporary era. For Chinese people today, it is basically a substitute for the word “No”, that has shattered the dreams and aspirations of who knows how many young people over the years, eroding at their promise and dulling them into so many edgeless pebbles in a great stream.

The title of Gao Yu’s latest solo exhibition “Unreality”, or “Bù Xiàn Shí”, utilizes the same three characters. It is a title that leaves us with a very straightforward impression, ringing strong with idealism. His works are not only a commentary on reality, but also a response to all of those countless “that’s not realistic”-s. I think these works are controversial. They are the epitome of an artist saying his own “No” to this naysaying reality, which is itself too absurd, too “unrealistic”.

Thus, as an exhibition, “Unreality” is necessarily a kind of visual commentary, reflecting the feelings of a young artist in confrontation with society today. With these works, Gao Yu finds an intimate link to the landscape of Chinese contemporary reality. Paintings in this series, including Slay the Dragon, Keynes • Mao, Stop the Flood, Move the Mountain, Hear no Evil, See no Evil, Speak no Evil, Dadaists Meeting, and The Egg and the Stone, all invariably have to do with topics relevant to society as it is right now, proving that the artist, just coming into his thirties, has single-handedly called in a prescription for China’s potentially young death.

Slay the Dragon, a work over 10 meters wide, depicts a group of pandas—symbolizing “the masses”—in the midst of a melee with a dragon; this bloody, chaotic scene represents Gao Yu’s concern as a “social reformist” over the extreme violence of “out with the old, in with the new” sentiment. Another example is Keynes • Mao, where the artist uses 1965 Time magazine cover, but cleverly adds Mao Zedong’s signature hairstyle, mole, and cigarette to the portrait of Keynes. Doesn’t this precisely bring to light the link between the bewilderment of China’s current status quo and that of the Keynesian theory, which made its rounds through the world for a few decades?

Gao Yu’s “Unreality” spirit of art clearly demonstrates that his own form of “Bù Xiàn Shí” does not want to detach from reality, but to actively intervene in it.

Hong Huang