See 9 Obsessively Detailed Drawings of Monsters and Myths by Guo Fengyi, Visionary Chinese Outsider Artist

The self-taught artist depicted the visions she had while practicing ancient meditation and breathing rituals.

Guo Fengyi, detail of Laojun (Elderly Lord) (2007). © Guo Fengyi, courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels. Photo: David Regen.

The late Chinese-born artist Guo Fengyi suffered from arthritis so debilitating that she had to leave her job at a rubber factory in the country’s Sha’anxi Province at just 45 years old. Forced into early retirement and immobilized by her illness, Guo began drawing and painting at home. She also turned to the ancient technique of qi-gong—a combination of philosophy, martial arts, breathing regulation, and meditation—to help cope with her ailments.

While practicing qi-gong, Guo would enter varying states of consciousness, often experiencing visions that she would then rush to articulate in her art. In the drawing Guo Fengyi arrived at Lugu Lake (2006), long tendrils of orange, green, red, and yellow pen marks twist up and down nearly 14 feet of a paper scroll, barely constrained by the ends of the paper.

Guo Fengyi, detail of Guo Fengyi arrived at Lugu Lake (2002). © Guo Fengyi, courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels. Photo: David Regen.

The swirling colors are frantic and evoke the Surrealists’ automatic drawings, which they made in heightened states. In other drawings, the faces of dragon-like creatures and unspecified lords point to Guo’s interest in traditional Chinese myths and philosophy. Sometimes venturing into the realm of astrology and medicine, several of Guo’s most intricate drawings are cross-sections of a human brain, with the nervous system mapped out in different colors with corresponding arrows and numbers (the physiological accuracy is beside the point).

Although Guo began to gain international attention in the years before her death, in 2010, the artist is still relatively unknown. A selection of her works is on view now at the Brussels outpost of Gladstone Gallery, which began representing Guo in 2018.

See more of Guo Fengyi’s mesmerizing works below. “Guo Fengyi” is on view at Gladstone Gallery, 12 Rue du Grand Cerf, Brussels through March 9, 2019. 

Guo Fengyi, detail of Laojun (Elderly Lord) (2007). © Guo Fengyi, courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels. Photo: David Regen.

Guo Fengyi, detail of Rushou Shihe (2007). © Guo Fengyi, courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels. Photo: David Regen.

Installation view of “Guo Fengyi” at Gladstone Gallery. Photo: Philippe De Gobert. Courtesy of Gladstone Gallery, New York, Brussels.

Guo Fengyi, detail of Lugu Lake–Kunming (2002). © Guo Fengyi, courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels. Photo: David Regen.

Installation view of “Guo Fengyi” at Gladstone Gallery. Photo: Philippe De Gobert. Courtesy of Gladstone Gallery, New York, Brussels.

Guo Fengyi, detail of Lugu Lake–Kunming (2002). © Guo Fengyi, courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels. Photo: David Regen.

Installation view of “Guo Fengyi” at Gladstone Gallery. Photo: Philippe De Gobert. Courtesy of Gladstone Gallery, New York, Brussels.

Guo Fengyi, Lushan Mountain (1996). © Guo Fengyi, courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels. Photo: David Regen.

Installation view of “Guo Fengyi” at Gladstone Gallery. Photo: Philippe De Gobert. Courtesy of Gladstone Gallery, New York, Brussels.

 


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