Born in 1983 in China, Li Xiang graduated from Beijing Film Academy, majoring in Film and Television Advertising.
Took up photography in 2008, he initially started focusing on contemporary Chinese subcultures, the idea of the body as a weapon, and the reality as the foundation of existence, constantly trying to reject definitions and labels. In recent years, Gulu’s goal has been to restore the identity of those who have been “materialized” by society; to do so, he employs different techniques, such as photography, texts, handwork, and painting.
Li Xiang encourage young people from all over the world to show their true self in front of the camera. He furthermore reconstructs by hand the reality depicted in the Polaroids taken, breaking the limitations of the square and blurring the boundary between photography and painting. As an artist whose main theme is the body, Gulu argues it is not an object, but the embodiment of emotions; it has nothing to do with beauty and ugliness, nudity is freedom.
“WILDPHOTOS” is Gulu's most recent work. It consists of a collection of almost 300 polaroid pictures that he took between 2017 and 2021. On a photographic level, through the peculiarity of polaroids, he carried out a second creation, including painting, collage, film transfer and flame burning. From the content to its overall structure, these works are rebellious and subversive against tradition. But it is important to remember that these pictures oppose the restraints of reality while cheering for the expression of freedom, embodying the Chinese philosophy of the Yin & the Yang, or the philosophy of mutual enhancement and inhibition between the five elements. In other words, “the coexisting of water and fire”.
As everyone knows, the imaging of Polaroid photos is inseparable from the liquid chemicals in the photographic paper, and the technology of secondary processing of "film transfer". Moreover, the photographic paper must be peeled off, and the picture immersed in the water; this way the water becomes the medium that will complete the transfer, leading its own characteristics to appear on the picture. That is how eventually water appears on the work. Thus, he wanted to take one more step, as he thought of the opposite of water, fire. Water represents Yin, fire Yang. It seems like paper-based Polaroids have never come in relation to fire, so during the development of an image, he tried to involve fire. Thereby, making water and fire, these antagonists create a new collision right on the same picture, consequently mixing into a new work of art. After testing relentlessly for a year, he put part of the resulting images in the second half of a book. It seems just like offering sacrifices in primitive religions, as the people in the Polaroids went through a baptism of water and fire, almost making him see God.
Following a timeline, the book “WILDPHOTOS” can be divided into three macro sections: the first part includes works from 2017 to 2020; the central part focuses on the collage of film transfer; the last part consists of new trials made in 2021. The name of the book has two levels of meaning: one is the English name “WILDPHOTOS”, as this collection makes the body the main content of the book. The artist and the models’ common objective is to get rid of the false and retain the true, making the human body return to the natural state, making people human again, finding a freer, wild condition. The second one is the Chinese name “歪风” (wāifēng), as these works lack of a place to exist in the conservative, biased and narrow-minded atmosphere of the Chinese society. Being regarded as "unhealthy tendencies" of moral corruption, what we have to do is to let this unhealthy trend blowdown and let countless weeds grow again.
The show will feature 50 Polaroids from the series "WILDPHOTOS" and 15 photographic works. These exclusive works will be presented for the first time in our space, before participating to Photo Basel in June.