Born in 1942 in Changsha, the capital of Hunan province, the Chinese painter and calligrapher Gu Gan attended art school in Beijing (Peking) in the early 1960s. Obliged to break off his studies for health reasons, he was nevertheless able to obtain a position with the Beijing city authority. Removed from his job during the Cultural revolution, he was forced to work as a labourer in the printing industry for ten years. The death of Mao and the fall of the Gang of Four in 1976 allowed him at last to return to his art. At the same time, he discovered with ardent interest the work of Kandinsky, Klee and Miró, then virtually unknown in China.
One of the promoters of the “Modern Calligraphy” exhibition held in Beijing in 1985, he soon became better known in the West, following visits to Germany in 1987 and 1989.
A major exhibition of his works was held in Cologne in 1993. He now lives in Beijing and is Chairman of the Association of Chinese Modern Painters and Calligraphers. His works are displayed in many museums both in China and the West, including the British Museum and the Museum for Far-Eastern Art in Cologne.
Chinese calligraphy, of pictographic origin, has remained unchanged since 2000 BC. At once language and art, the formulation of meaning goes hand in hand with a constant and exacting sense of the aesthetic. Gu Gan seeks to remain true to this tradition, while at the same time taking a profoundly innovative approach. Thus, he has brought colour to calligraphy, shaking off traditional restraints and the insistence on balance, and adds ornamental seals to the actual drawing. Author of The Three Steps of Modern Calligraphy, published in 1990, Gu Gan is now regarded not only as a master but also a leading theorist of his art. His work bears witness to the idea that calligraphy can be a link between his own culture and Western abstract art.
For Mouton 1996, Gu Gan has brought together in a single drawing five ideograms, all of which signify the heart, varying the colour and stroke of each. This powerful yet subtle composition, which he has called “Coeur à Coeur” (Heart to Heart), is intended as an act of faith in universal harmony.