Fou Gallery announces Shuling Guo’s exhibition Sotto Voce, her second solo show with the Gallery, will be held from June 18th to September 11th, 2022. Following her last solo exhibition 5–6pm in 2020, this is another waypoint in her artistic journey, inspired by and interwoven with her voyages at sea.
Guo lives and travels aboard a sailboat for most of the year. When traveling by sail, the regularity and planning of life ashore gives way to the whims of nature. Wind, waves and the movement of weather fronts decide whether and when you will go. When fortune allows you to depart, to sail offshore, you must remain highly attuned to the rhythm and flow of the sea, respecting every change in conditions by adjusting the helm and sails, and greeting every new dawn as a gift.
Thus, Shuling Guo and her husband shuttle between islands and sheltered anchorages, where in those calmer waters she uses a small and compact cabin on their boat as her studio for creating her color pencil drawings and oil paintings. The light and scent of the ocean and the sky overflow through the windows and fill the interior space, filtered through her reflective and meditative mindscape they finally rest on her canvas. Most of the works in this exhibition were done on board in this fashion, with two larger works being completed in her studio in Philadelphia due to the confines of the boat's cabin.
Shuling Guo, Sotto Voce-Annapolis, MD, 2022. Oil on canvas, 16 x16 inches ©Shuling Guo, courtesy of Fou Gallery
Shuling Guo, Sotto Voce-Luperon, Dominican Republic, 2021. Oil on canvas, 48 x 44 inches ©Shuling Guo, courtesy of Fou Gallery
The Sotto Voce series in this exhibition includes a selection of color pencil drawings and oil paintings created by Shuling Guo from late 2020 through the first half of 2022. Each oil painting is titled by the prefix “Sotto Voce” plus the location from which the work originated, while the colored pencil drawings are titled solely by location for distinction. The names of the series include a number of coastal cities in the eastern United States and several island countries in the Caribbean, piecing together a map that indicates Shuling Guo’s footprints of her voyages over the past two years. The name of the collection “Sotto Voce” eloquently conveys the haziness and dreaminess of the scenes she portrays. The word comes from Italian and refers to implying emphasis by intentionally lowering the pitch of the voice. Applied in classical music scores like Mozart's Requiem and Chopin's Nocturnes, this word is also a music term that suggests a dramatic reduction in volume that is more lyrical and pictorial than the usual pianissimo.
Shuling Guo, Sotto Voce-Long Island, Bahamas, 2021. Oil on canvas, 40 x 44 inches ©Shuling Guo, courtesy of Fou Gallery
Shuling Guo, Sotto Voce-Le Marin, Martinique, 2021. Oil on canvas, 35 x 27 inches ©Shuling Guo, courtesy of Fou Gallery
The dominant tranquility of the ocean reigns most of the time and space throughout Shuling Guo’s voyages. The ocean weaves a soft and distant whisper with its faraway and melodious sound of winds, waves and animal calls, and nurtures coruscating fluxes of light and colors under its calm atmosphere. Immersed in this Eden, Shuling Guo has devoted herself to exploring the realm of Sotto Voce in her works. Her images appear simple and pure, but a closer look at the details reveals a myriad of different color evolutions within even the most minute of scales blended seamlessly into one another. In her previous phase of work, the colors of her works were generally high in brightness and low in saturation, with layers of pigments of gentle color schemes rendered. Her subjects were mostly parts of real scenes, comparatively abstracted by the enlargement and cropping of the framing. While at the current stage of her work, she continues to scrutinize and refine her precise and complex color technique, yet often arranges a semi-abstract form within an empty overall picture. This form, perhaps distilled from a cloud, a few flowers, or a speck of light, provides a visual focus and a mysterious ambience to the picture with waves of colors. Some works inherit the low-saturation color palette, such as Sotto Voce-Luperon, Dominican Republic and Sotto Voce-Saint.Pierre, Martinique-1, which are inspired by sunlight that are refracted by glass and separated into different colors. The color range of these two works is precisely controlled, with a pale refractive iridescence under a subtle, seemingly unnoticeable gradation that can only be observed upon a closer inspection of the images. Other works reflect Shuling Guo’s unprecedentedly audacious attempt in color use. Two examples are Sotto Voce-Exuma, Bahamas and Sotto Voce-Long Island, Bahamas, which employ relatively bold colors that are immediately noticeable at first glance. The variety of color choices greatly increases the difficulty of color rendering, but Shuling Guo’s final images retain a high level of virtuosity in harmony.
Shuling Guo, Sotto Voce-Exuma, Bahamas, 2021. Oil on canvas, 27 x 35 inches ©Shuling Guo, courtesy of Fou Gallery
Shuling Guo, Le Marin, Martinique-4, 2021. Pencil on paper, Artist's Frame, 14 x17 inches ©Shuling Guo, courtesy of Fou Gallery
While Guo's works look natural and effortless, she is in reality a methodical and rational creator. The adjustment of her work follows a logical and structured process of thought from inspiration to completion. She also reads extensively the works and records of other artists to enrich her insights and perception of creativity. She tends to have an affinity for abstract or abstract expressionist artists with labels of Spirituality and Spontaneity, such as Mark Rothko who fills the canvas with huge color blocks, Helen Frankenthaler who sketches fluid poetic geometries, Agnes Martin who lives reclusively in the center of a desert, and Hilma af Klint who is wholeheartedly devoted to the occult. From the personalities and creative styles of these artists, it is easy to see that Shuling Guo's creative intention is to discover and explore herself inwardly. Along the journey of her art creation, she seeks solitude from the disturbance of the world, and has been facing the wall meditating in nature as if in a temple for a lifetime. Hilma af Klint writes in her notes, “The pictures were painted directly through me, without any preliminary drawings, and with great force. I had no idea what the paintings were supposed to depict; nevertheless I worked swiftly and surely, without changing a single brush stroke.” Her faith is devout, and the images of her works are intricately composed with geometric, diagrammatic and structural elements from nature and the occult. And the reason why we resonate with these artists, with Shuling Guo, and yearn for this kind of recluse sanctuary and spiritual baptism, is probably because the pursuit of wisdom and enlightenment is always deeply anchored in every unquenched heart of ours.
About the artist
Shuling Guo on her boat “Selkie”. Photo by Selkie ©Shuling Guo
Shuling Guo (b. 1986, Chao’An, Guangdong Province, China) graduated from the Oil Painting Department of Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing (B.F.A.) in 2010. She immigrated to the United States in 2019, and now lives in Philadelphia and on the Sailing Vessel Selkie, painting while implementing sailing voyages. 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 among 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 2020 she held the first solo exhibition in New York at Fou Gallery: 5—6 pm. In 2022, she opened the second exhibition in New York at Fou Gallery - Sotto Voce.
About the curator
Lynn Hai at Fou Gallery. Photo by Echo He.
Lynn Hai After graduating from Architectural Association (London), Hai gained her Master’s in Design Studies at Harvard University (Boston). She is a partner and the Art Director of Fou Gallery, also a staff writer at Harvard CAMLab (Chinese Art Media Lab). Her selected curatorial and design experiences includes: Wei Jia: Good Times (Fou Gallery, 2021); Together in Distance benefit art auction for the relief of COVID-19 (New York, 2020); Dwelling At the Present Interior Design Exhibition and Forum (Harvard Club, New York, 2019); Flow Fields - Confluence in Urban Picnic (Matedero, Madrid, 2013); Flow Fields - Dilution in 2013 Lisbon Triennale (Sinel de Cordes Palace, Lisbon, 2013).
About Fou Gallery
FOU GALLERY is an apartment gallery and creative lab based in New York. Fou is dedicated to promoting creative talents and projects of our time. As suggested by its name, Fou is both a denial of the mainstream commercial gallery model and an active contributor to a new, organic art community. With the belief that the enjoyment of art is an essential part of everyday life, Fou offers a vibrant, inspirational selection of original works in art and design, and hosts various events to create a diverse and accessible art space.
About the exhibition
Dates: June 18th–September 11th, 2022
Opening: June 18, 2022, 4–8pm
Location: Fou Gallery, 410 Jefferson Ave #1, Brooklyn, New York, NY 11221
Curator: Lynn Hai
Curator & Artist’s talk: June 18, 5pm
Courtesy of the Artist and Fou Galllery.