I am an artist, and my love for art comes from me feeling the supportive effect of art on the development of human life. I transferred to Nanjing Youth Counseling Service Center in 1989 by chance, where I established an “Art Analysis Department” soon after due to my belief that art is more accessible than psychology to reach into one’s heart. For the need of supporting and caring for people’s mind and spirit, art is obviously more vivid and effective than psychology.
Since then, I had been exploring different forms of art creation, but I still felt that I was restricted by those kinds of artistic experiences. For this reason, I had been attempting to get rid of and transcend such restriction from those experiences. In 2000, I chose to abandon my brushes and used the paints with my hands directly in order to avoid being affected by my past painting experience with brushes. At that moment, I had a strong feeling as if a lightening hit suddenly through my body, which is an experience I had never had in the past, and I was prompted to try further. After a few days, my fingers were no longer governed by my mind, but by my body’s will, and results were paintings filled with the traces of my fingers interacting with paints and canvas. Those traces are imbued with passion and desire and have nothing to do with thought, knowledge or experience. Later I named this series Desire Finger.
It took me almost 10 years to paint the Desire Finger series. During this period, I also extended the idea of Desire Finger and brought it into the creations of various life supplies and household utensils, and specially, to highlight the meaning of Desire Finger, I made a sculpture works named Chinese Stones, all these works having participated in many exhibitions. After then, I became unsatisfied with my constant repetitive expressions via Desire Finger, as I discovered that the movements and variations of the human body are still limited. I wished to break through this boundary and step into an infinite world, for which I made a solo exhibition with the theme Infinite Color.
In 2006, I pinned this wish of “infinity” on the mentally ill, and I built a temporary painting room for the inpatients in a mental hospital later. The paintings by the mentally ill who had never studied art immediately brought me to an infinite world, which is supposed to be that unconstrained world rich in spirituality we usually talk about. From that moment on, I made it my goal to discover and promote Outsider Art for the rest of my life. Now we have created Outsider Art studios in two communities in Nanjing serving people with different types of mental illnesses and rehabilitators living there. At the same time, we have also combined this Outsider Art service with Art therapy and create the “Outsider Art Therapy” method, which is being promoted nationwide and is very popular among patients and rehabilitation institutions.
When I revisit the experience of creating Desire Finger series today, what I discover is the indispensable role this experience plays. As for me, immersing in various cultural and worldly experiences, it would be difficult to escape the bondage of them without that art practice, through which I also get to know the freedom and infinity of human soul and spirit at the same time.
Decades of art practice have taught me the indispensability of art for the present generations. Without the help of art, we would most likely be caught in the body, in concepts, in delusions, or live in the torment of the split between body, concepts, and delusions. The role of art lies in its ability to expand the boundaries of the body, the boundaries of knowledge, and the boundaries of imagination, thus allowing the human body, mind, and spirit to form a unified and open organism.
The reason why art has such a function beyond the body, concepts and delusions is that the body, concepts and delusions are all products from human disassociating one’s own life from the world, and this disassociation has precisely caused one’s life losing its unity, thus putting oneself in opposition to the world, and this disassociation and opposition is the reason why various mental problems are arisen nowadays.
Art is not an idea or a material, but an expression of the free will of human life. Once this free will is connected to all things in the world, those things will possess spirituality. As our lives that have been disciplined and transformed by knowledge, in order to gain vigor and vitality, only through some form of art can we approach the free will of life, and then let it activate all things in the world and our lives, and after they being activated, the mission of art is fulfilled.
About Guo Haiping
Guo is a contemporary artist, the founder of Outsider Art Therapy in China, the editor-in-chief of the Outsider Art Series, and currently serves on the China Committee of the International Association for Creative Arts Education and Therapy (IACAET).