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Interview with Artist & Painter Shuling Guo

Last Updated on 2021/03/24

Shuling Guo is an artist & freelance painter who mainly explores the lights and colors of nature.

Shuling Guo is a freelance painter based in Philadelphia. She graduated from China Central Academy of Fine Art, Beijing (B.F.A.) in 2010, later on, she became an artist and illustrator, has published more than 10 picture books and illustrated for many commercial projects. In 2012, she had her first solo exhibition Secret Fragrance in Beyond Art Space in Beijing. Since then, her work has been widely exhibited in Beijing, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and other places. Her works have been included in the permanent collections of Central Academy of Fine Arts Art Museum (Beijing) and Art Museum of Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts (Guangzhou). In August 2020, she had her first solo exhibition in New York at Fou Gallery: 5—6 pm. Every year she spends a lot of time living on a sailboat, observes, and paints the subtle light and colors mixed by nature.

Featured image: Shuling Guo in front of her work <5—6 pm>-22 (2020). Photograph by Selkie ©Shuling Guo, courtesy Fou Gallery.

This interview appeared first on Planet China Vol 11, Celebrating Women who push boundaries.

Instagram | Behance| Fou Gallery

Could you tell us a bit about yourself? What made you want to become an artist?

I grew up in a little town in southern China, finished my college at China Central Academy of Fine Art, since then, I am a full-time artist. 2 years ago, moved to the US, now I live on a sailboat and Philadelphia. Currently, I travel in the Caribbean on our sailboat. When I was about 8, I started to fascinated about drawing, we have a full-size blackboard that covers one wall in my parent’s house, using colorful chalks to drew whatever I had seen in the giant wall is my favorite thing: a full wall of butterflies, temples, Buddha… Since my childhood, I always love to draw and paint, There’s no particular reason that made me want to become an artist, it’s more like a natural thing.

Shuling Guo gives color to the wind, opens up horizons that shape glimpses in time, where a thin line is created, a perceptual rift in which a feeling of well-being and inner peace is perceived

<5—6 pm>-17, 2020 Oil on board, 12 x 12 inches 木板油画,30.5 x 30.5 cm

How did you get on painting and drawing? Who influenced you as a person and as an artist?

It’s a day-to-day practice. I have loved many artists in my life: when I was teenagers, my favorite artist was Bonnard, Monet, 八大山人, Schiele. Bonnard and Monet influence the way I observe and expressed colors in my early paintings, the other two artists I really like the way they drew: powerful, full of spirit. When I was in college, I looked at a lot of Chinese traditional murals from the Song and Yuan dynasty, also amazed by works from the western classic artists like Botticelli, Rembrandt, Vermeer. All the classics works are made of many layers, the complexity and combinations of different layers of oil paint create a magic effect on the canvas, this influences my work so much. Lately, I like Agnes Martin, Louise Bourgeois, Donald Judd, Kandinsky, and Rothko.

The “5-6 pm” series is created by her contemplation and observation during this time span, in the winter evening, in the Northern Hemisphere, when the sun descends towards the horizon, and the light of the day gradually decreases. Shuling Guo’s series portrays this phenomenon in the sky and displays a palette of shades and reflections that subtly change in light, color, and intensity

Shuling Guo: “5—6 pm” installation view. Photograph by Lynn Hai ©Shuling Guo, courtesy Fou Gallery

What do you love most about painting? What do you want to communicate with your artwork?

I love every step about painting, I put my thoughts, emotions, struggles into painting, a good painting has a physical body, it will communicate with the audience itself without explanations.

You are also a talented illustrator. Do you consider paints and illustrations in two separate spaces of your life or they are one is the extension of the other? What do each of these art styles and aspects convey to you?

The illustration was a way that I keep my drawings practice. I mostly focus on oil painting. The oil painting has become 99% of my work.

In both your paintings and illustrations, we can notice that you pay a lot of attention to nature and its phenomena. Can you tell us about your relationship with nature?

My personality is very connected to nature: the gradient colors of dusk sky, of a petal, of the serene water… the colors from nature are so perfect, nothing can compare to that. Now I am living on a boat, surrounded by the water and sky, very close to nature. I paint what I see.

Guo’s use and intuition of colors bring a breath of fresh air. Guo’s artworks have healing power and are like regenerative oxygen for the mind and body

I read that every year you spend a lot of time alone living on a sailboat. When did you start to get passionate about sailing? What limits of life did it help you overcome, and what did it help you strengthen? What are the biggest challenges of painting on a sailboat? What’s the most exciting part?

I live on a sailboat with my partner, not alone. I only started to learn sailing a few years ago. We are living in the catamaran, like a floating apartment, one amazing thing about sail is that you can be traveling many places but always sleep in the same bed. Functionally there’s not much different from a land house, apart from I couldn’t make huge paintings.

Shuling Guo: “5—6 pm” installation view. Photograph by Lynn Hai ©Shuling Guo, courtesy Fou Gallery

From Mainland China to Philadelphia. What are the main differences and opportunities? Does living in the States had influenced your way to create and be inspired?

Not that much different, I still work with my Chinese connections. When I move to America, I met Echo He and she helped me to do the exhibitions and Fou Gallery started to represent my work in 2020. Living in the States open my mind more, I get to see the best contemporary art exhibitions in New York all the time, feel so close to the masterpieces in MoMA and Met, I visit these two museums again and again. The nature in America is great too, very diverse and spectacular.

Shuling Guo is an artist who is part of the new generation that grew up in the era of globalization and therefore she benefited from the cultural and artistic openness in China


Nature plays a significant role in your artwork. What do you think about the current environmental situation? On the sailboat, you have the opportunity to see the sea and nature from a unique point of view. Do you think art can contribute to awareness and environmental conservation?

I think nature is so generous, powerful, and beautiful, the human being is so tiny, I wish people can live a healthy, eco-friendly life, harmony with nature instead of costume it. I think so, some installation art has a big impact on audiences to look at nature, paintings have less power to do so, I feel a painting is more personal and private.

Photos courtesy of Shuling Guo & Fou Gallery
Special thanks to Echo He

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