Experience, speculate, and decode
KUO does not employ realistic forms as subjects, which however give off certain déjà vu quality. Some works make people smile,
and some quietly exist, while others are like flashing inspiration. They are abstract thoughts or drifts of emotion condensed into
three-dimensional forms which invite viewers to experience, speculate, and decode their mysteries.
Art talk on Shida KUO’s sculptures - Director of ESLITE GALLERY, Emily CHAO.
He does not intend to proclaim his artistic ideas, but rather, prefers to create a quiet and contented universe for each work
in a calm, restrained manner. Shida KUO’s forms are expressed in a minimalist style that is purely spiritual,
which is perhaps the most distinctive characteristic that immediately captivates viewers.
A number of small ceramic works made between 2013 and 2017 best exemplify Shida KUO’s approach to un-form
and de-intellectualize in order to restore forms to an extreme state of purity. KUO not only strives for simple and rustic forms,
but also seamlessly integrates his personal consciousness through the creative process with extraordinary techniques.
It can be said that, as opposed to Western sculpture traditions that emphasize knowledge and concept,
KUO prefers to roam between freehand spontaneity and emptiness, and to return to innocence and simplicity, or a state of serenity
and freedom, by eliminating the purposeful and utilitarian nature of sculpture.
By way of bringing forms back to simple spheres
and squares, KUO not only echoes the Chinese philosophy of seeing the universe as “round heaven and square earth,” but also reveals the inspiration he gathered from the primitive artifacts he saw during visits to history museums. His ceramic works arise from sculpture concepts yet retain a spirit that is thoroughly Eastern. This is deeply connected to the techniques
and concepts he employs to create unworldly and simple forms.
Exhibition views: "Shida KUO：Un/Form, De/Intellectualize".
To return to his first aspiration for art and to formulate his idiosyncratic vocabulary,
KUO embarked on a long-term quest in search of the most fundamental forms. He observed natural things and creatures from different angles and recorded his findings with drawings, trying to pinpoint the most “essential” forms.
Shida KUO’s sculptures [ Detail ]
In his practice, KUO creates organic forms that are nonsensical
and mystical, radiating originality that is genuinely his own.
“I like to follow my nature, and I particularly cherish
the arbitrary happenings during my creation.”
Untitled AS-1, 2020
Enamel paint and aluminium, 34 x 46 x 31.5 cm, 12 Ed. + 3 A.P.
KUO’s studio in New York.
He has entered a space without gravity...
When conceiving ideas, he often sits in his studio with paper and pen in hands. After mentally retrieving from daily triviality,
it would be as if he has entered a space without gravity and where assorted forms and lines are free-floating,
awaiting the artist’s random combination or simply clashing into one another. In such a semi-automatic state,
he can make hundreds of “doodles” and would not cease until he feels satisfied with a specific form.
Given that his works are the outcomes of his subconscious and intuition, there is no narrative content,
and thus they are all named “Untitled.” The works do not form into any series, either, as each one is distinct and unique.
[ Installation view ] Shida KUO, Untitled P 03-20 (2020)
KUO’s unique approach in eliminating perspective in two-dimensional paintings and restoring the materiality of painting
shows the artist’s attempt to explore space on a restricted surface. With his canvases, the emphasis is on presenting
the relationship between object and space, as well as exploring the interaction between texture and paint itself.
[ Background ] KUO’s studio in New York.
A few black-and-white ceramic works that resemble two-dimensional paintings show textures created by incision,
a technique used in woodcut. When compared to paintings from his other series, we can easily deduce that here KUO is exploring the essence of painting. Meanwhile, his new canvas works show a departure from the former approach of placing the subject in the center, and an attempt to break free from having only one fixed viewing angle in order to open up
more possibilities. This new style is his response to the space in which sculptures are viewed,
and a discussion on ways to correlate form and space.
Shida KUO, Untitled SW-02, 2019 [ Detail ]
“I do not work through trial and error.”
Before technique is used to take action, there is a lengthy internal gestation period: “I do not work through trial and error.” Extensive contemplation is followed by careful planning; his work begins as an image in mind and emerges, much later, as an object in the outer world: “The final piece is nearly always successful…I see it clearly before I set out to make it.”
KUO’s studio in New York .
“Using original technique to make original form.” —Shida KUO
After moving to New York (1992) to study sculpture, he began regularly visiting The American Museum of Natural History
and it was here that he realized what he wanted to do. The concept of KUO’s work today is a direct consequence
of those frequent visits, where he was drawn to displays of ancient artifacts of cooking utensils and primitive tools.
These everyday objects had something about them both eternal and distinctly human,
something with which KUO resonated profoundly.
Shida KUO views his overall sculptural technique as a creation in itself. He describes it as “using original technique to make original form.” For this artist, a simple technique can carry more content.
[ Left ] Shida KUO, Untitled 96-24, 1996 [ Right ] Traditional Chinese landscape by HUANG Binhong
There is something pure about Shida KUO's ceramic sculptures. By pure, I do not mean virtuous or innocent, but pure as in intuitive and honest. KUO's forms are pared to essences. There is no pretension. They are about form - human form with its organic possibilities and about surface, which he integrates seamlessly.
—Judith S. Schwartz, Ph.D
Untitled 96-24, 1996
Fired clay and metallic oxides, 42 x 22 x 10 cm
Shida KUO, Untitled SC-01, Untitled 96-07, Untitled 96-37, Untitled 96-24 [ Detail ]
郭旭達 Shida KUO
An artwork “should carry its creator’s thoughts as well as traces of its making,
showing the artist’s anxiety, insanity, or simply bewilderment, so as to become
a soulful work.” —Shida KUO
Shida KUO was born in Taiwan in 1959; he received his master in sculpture from New York University in 1992 and continues to work in New York. KUO is in search of forms that have a basic, pre-linguistic relationship to our bodies, forms that are “repressed by our consciousness but are persistent in our veins”.
The choice of material is integral to the concept of KUO’s art. He intentionally uses clay and wood to maintain a deeply felt affinity with that which makes us human. KUO insists that each work is individual and refuses to create within the constraints of series; he also refuses to enforce a title onto his work. The best way to appreciate his art, according to the artist himself, is to “live with it for some time”.
The paintings KUO exhibited along the sculptures are to be viewed as an extension of the ceramic works and a continuous exploration of interior spaces. KUO treats his paintings as “flat sculptures”, a term which accent its three-dimensional feature. KUO blends fiber, mica powder, and sand into acrylic paint to explore new creative possibilities, he also uses oil pastels for fine processing on his “flat sculptures”.
KUO’s simplified earthenware forms, richly tactile, talismanic, dense and hermetic, seem to allude to ancient knowledge, to wordless secrets that may be revealed through contemplative touching of the object. “By combining the organic quality of nature with the psychological ambiguities of the inner self, I seek to create my own vocabulary of forms which convey a spiritual perspective.”
1959 Born in Taiwan
1982 B.F.A., Fine Arts in Painting, National Taiwan Normal University, Taipei, Taiwan
1992 M.A., Department of Arts and Art Professions, New York University, New York, USA
1993- Adjunct Professor, Department of Arts and Art Professions at New York University, New York, USA
2005- Member of the International Academy of Ceramics, Geneva, Switzerland
Now living and working in New York, USA
Above text from the articles:
2004 “Enlightened Clay: The Abstractions of Shida Kuo”, Judith S. Schwartz, Ph.D.
2007 “The Essence of Forms: The Clay Sculpture of Shida Kuo”, Todd Heyden, Ph.D.
2016 “Shida KUO: Shifting Lines and Evolving Forms”, Jenning King
2020 “Un-Form, De-Intellectualize—Shida Kuo’s Art”, Chuang Wei-Tzu
To learn more about Shida KUO's works