Colin Jackson, Mike Tyson or Kobe Bryant. Star athletes appear on the canvases of the Taiwanese "Showman" Kuo Yen Fu

Colin Jackson, Mike Tyson or Kobe Bryant. Star athletes appear on the canvases of the Taiwanese "Showman" Kuo Yen Fu

Share article

The path to the art of the former singer, entertainer, and model was not straightforward. One of the reasons was the financial situation which hindered Kuo Yen Fu's way to art school. Nevertheless, in 2015 he decided to become an artist and his series Suitcase taking on the theme of open travel suitcases quickly secured his place among top artists, once it was included e.g. in the Art Shopping 2018 exhibition at the Louvre in Paris. However, as for the theme of his work, his inner athlete voice was gradually becoming louder and louder.

"I felt confused because I was still drawing suitcases to satisfy the public, so I went through my sketchbooks from my childhood and they helped me figure out who I really was. I asked myself why did I keep ignoring the fact that I am a track and field athlete and I love sport?"

That's when he began to create pieces inspired by the world of sports and its respective, often American, top athletes: such as boxer Mike Tyson, and deceased Kobe Bryant – the star of the Los Angeles Lakers, who is considered one of the best basketball players of all times and who tragically died at the age of 41 in the crash of his private helicopter, or basketball legend Michael Jordan. The artist's favorite used to be the former American athlete Carl Lewis, holder of nine Olympic gold medals, whom he had the opportunity to meet in person.

Kuo Yen Fu: Commemorate / Vzpomínka, 2022. Zdroj: Artsy

"I asked Lewis how he became a champion and he responded that you just have to run fast," recalls Kuo a funny anecdote from when they met.

The Los Angeles Post called Kuo Yen Fu an "ultra-contemporary artist" in response to his first solo exhibition in the United States. The exhibition with a fitting name GAME was showcased by the Seasons LA gallery and the visitors could view boxing, rugby, athletics or basketball themed paintings throughout August and September last year.  

Kuo Yen Fu, Knocked Down by One Punch, 2022. Source: Rusha

The pieces depicting athletes famous in the 80s and 90s hanging on the walls created a bit of a paradox, but what makes the author contemporary is undoubtedly his ability to faithfully capture both positive and negative emotions, which are inherent in the sports world, and, after all, in everything else. 

"The strain of exertion in the faces of Kuo Yen Fu’s sportsmen is just as immediate as the expressions of sadness or joy momentarily exposed in these heroes’ pursuit of excellence. GAME revels in the passion of human struggle, commemorating the unstoppable champions of the court, the field, and the ring," states the text introducing his exhibition in Los Angeles.

His previous professions made him also a perceptive observer; he understands human behavior as well as their psychological state and, above all, manages to incorporate all that into his artwork. He creates something like snapshots from sports competitions through gestural painting and manages to express tense moments, fighting spirit, focus or victorious euphoria, to capture excitement and uncertainty. The paint flowing down his paintings like the sweat of athletes, which we can almost smell from the canvases, adds even more to the dynamics of his work. 

Sneak peek of the exhibition GAME held in Los Angeles on 9. August – 18. September 2022
Kuo Yen Fu: Man In The Running, 2022. Source: Artsy

Often blurred, unclear, sometimes even chaotic background offers an interesting contrast with the forefront. Precise realistic details are in symbiosis with some simplified motifs, such as a basketball taking the form of a plain orange circle or other mere sketchy or blurred details that speed up the paintings.

Kuo Yen Fu: Not Letting You Go, 2022. Source: Artsy

Kuo Yen Fu's drawings are also worth noticing. Athletes at the stadium are featured also in his cycle Drawings from a Hotel, which the artist was finishing at the Caesar Park Hotel in Taipei, and in which he captures situations and objects intimately familiar to him on paper. And as is peculiar to the artist, we watch them again in the tense moments of their sports careers…  

Kuo Yen Fu: Kresby z cyklu Drawings from a Hotel. Source: Rusha

Kuo Yen Fu was born in Taiwan in 1979 and has been pursuing art since childhood, but since his family couldn't pay for an art school, he studied physical education at the Taipei Physical Education College. He worked in the entertainment industry, but eventually decided to shift his focus to the art scene. He began painting professionally in 2015. In 2018 his work was exhibited at Art Shopping 2018 in Salles du Carrousel at the Louvre in Paris and he was invited to the Venice Biennale a year later. His first solo American exhibition took place in 2022 at the Seasons LA gallery in Los Angeles. He still lives and works in Taiwan. 

Kuo Yen Fu in front of his painting portraying British athlete Colin Jackson at the Yuan Ru gallery where his solo exhibition Return home was held in 2019.

Kuo Yen Fu: 18.29, 2020. Source: Estyle Art Gallery

Share article

Published 25.04.2023

Anna Strasserová vystudovala dějiny umění na Filozofické fakultě Univerzity Karlovy, působila jako webová redaktorka Národního památkového ústavu, nyní pracuje pro pražskou Artotéku. Amatérsky hraje florbal, má ráda kolektivní sporty, běh a běžky. Propojení sportu a umění je její vysněná kombinace. Obdivuje Miroslava Tyrše, má ráda jemné vzory a dobré knihy.

Message us

Did you enjoy this article? Do you have any questions? We are grateful for your input.

More in Artists