(b. 1942, Changsha, Hunan)
Gu Gan began studying traditional Chinese painting at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, China in the early 1960s. His education was put on hold, however, during the Cultural Revolution, as Gu Gan was sent to work in a factory. It is during this brief ending of his education as a painter that Gu Gan turned to calligraphy, a written art form that will prove vital in his artistic journey in the future.
In 1975, long after the chaos of the 1960s had ended, Gu Gan was appointed as the Arts Editor at the People’s Literature Publishing House and was once again able to pursue his education in Fine Arts. During this period, Gu Gan was exposed to early 20th- Century abstraction from the West. Inspired by painters such as Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee and Joan Miro, artists who emphasized the use of shapes to convey meaning, Gu Gan began experimenting with a more painterly and expressive approach to Chinese calligraphy.
In traditional Chinese calligraphy, the form of characters was merely a vessel for the literal meaning of the word. But, trained as a painter, Gu Gan saw Chinese calligraphy for what it was—a complex and intricate combination of line and form—that in and of itself was beauty and worth merit. Emphasizing the form of Chinese characters and the energy that comes from a stroke of a brush, Gu Gan led the Modernist school of calligraphy, a movement that strove to liberate the written art form from the centuries of convention that had stifled its creative potential.
In 1975, Gu Gan exhibited his work at the National Museum of Fine Arts in Beijing, China. The exhibition was China’s first display of modern calligraphy and it demonstrated the changing political and artistic climate of the nation. Modernism had finally arrived in the Chinese art scene and artists like Gu Gan were standing at the forefront of these artistic developments.
Today, Gu Gan remains a prominent force in the progress of modern Chinese calligraphy. He continually creates progressive and expressive calligraphy and paintings that rival abstraction from the West. Apart from his work as an artist, Gu Gan also writes and lectures. An artist that is dedicated to more than just his craft, Gu Gan continues to inspire younger generations of Asian artists.