Dai Guangyu is a self-taught artist who grew up in a educated environment (with his father well versed in history and a student of calligraphy since the age of five). It is likely that Dai Guangyu would have followed a traditional career path had he not found himself a part of the New Wave Movement in 1985, which was a perfect fit for the development of his creative scope. He quickly became one of the leaders of the avant-garde scene in Sichuan. In the 90s, Dai Guangyu discovered performance, which employs the body as a key artistic medium, which he found most suitable for expressing himself artistically, being powerful in movement, incisive in meaning, radical and transient. It was during this time that he showed his penchant for ‘ink games’. In the north and in Beijing, during this period, performance raised the themes of suffering and the challenges of oneself in society, with the performance taking on what were often seen as masochistic forms.
In contrast, performance in the south west of China questioned topics such as social order and ethics, economic and cultural disruption and the environment, gathered largely around the energy of Dai Guangyu. Performance and conceptual art had found its mentor until 2003, the year that Dai moved permanently to Beijing.
Throughout these years Dai Guangyu developed a body of art and conceptual approach strong in cultural references, rich in poetry and symbolism, and beautiful in form, all of which attracted continual criticism.
He created a system of codes and symbols that intensified along with the progress of his installations and performances: black Chinese ink or porcelain vases, symbols of the complexity of Chinese culture; flour to evoke the staple food of the commonalty; suited men with faces painted white or gold as metaphors of westernisation or the pursuit of wealth. Through the act of performance – a temporary action passing from one state to another – Dai Guangyu maintains that all solid forms belong to one moment only and that all circumstances are in the process of transformation. His installations and photographs maintain a vestige of this ‘state of procress’ which is the essence of performance and provides a poetic poignancy to the still forms.
Dai Guangyu is now recognized as an important and original figure of the Chinese artistic scene. His interdisciplinary practice is written within a socially engaged trajectory. Through his performances, photographs, paintings or calligraphy, he enacts his body and the symbolism of Chinese society to the ends of their resistance or their disappearance.
Dai Guangyu lives and works in Beijing (China).