Tony Guo, Sand: Gallery Foyer
3 – 26 August 2023
Jhana Millers is pleased to present a small series of oil paintings by early-career artist Tony Guo in the gallery foyer. Tony was recently awarded the main prize at the NZ Painting and Printmaking Awards 2023.
“The line is made up of an infinite number of points; the plane of an infinite number of lines; the volume of an infinite number of planes; the hypervolume of an infinite number of volumes.”
The Book of Sand, Jorge Luis Borges.
Sand indulges in the psycho-theatre of survival through the medium of figurative oil paintings. This exhibition reconciles with Guo’s most fundamental ontologies, examining the roots of existence, and questioning the absurdity of what came before him.
After visiting his grandparents’ graves in Northeast China earlier this year, Guo was struck by the history of their turbulent lives, shaken by wars, migration, and revolutions. Sand sees Guo reflecting on the matrix of his own existence; an infinitesimal grain of sand within a vast collective.
It is here that history becomes a place of play. Guo reenacts the past with his own body, casting himself as a prop in which multiple points of time intersect. In this way, the self and the body are reduced to expendable entities; passive and malleable in their existence. The muted yet expansive register of colours embodies a world of potential, brimming with curiosity and opportunity.
The landscapes in Sand move between desolate and full, presenting the Sisyphean absurdity of the working class allegory. Acts of survival quickly become a voyeuristic spectacle, rendered into comedic occult: Figures work diligently to pump a pig-machine, or to pick eggs from a mammalesque creature.
Through brush strokes that almost-articulate, and faces that are not quite fully-formed, figures are constrained by a pendulum swing between Here and There, never quite arriving and never quite coming home.
Text by Jennifer Cheuk