Lives and works in Edinburgh, UK
Michael Gao (b. 2002 in Beijing, China; lives and studies BA (Hon) Painting in Edinburgh College of Art, UK) creates paintings that explore politics and digital culture through intense colours and unique compositions.
With a young Chinese perspective, Gao delves into the meme culture in Asia and the United States, examining themes of censorship, technology, and the political climate as represented in the online world. He blends figuration and symbolism with digital found images, resulting in surprising connections and comical outcomes. Gao captures the absurdity of both the real and digital landscapes, creating a hyper-reality filled with contrasts, satire, and cultural references.
In his recent painting, “They Completely Control Their Hosts’ Nervous System” (2022), Gao references traditional Khokhloma-inspired patterns from northern China and early 20th-century game graphics, creating a dialogue between reality and ultra-reality. Using intense colors, he captures and guides the viewer’s attention, while a disturbing encounter with a grotesque creature is unfolding in the background. Similar to his contemporaries, such as Gao Hang, Michael Gao argues that attention can be dangerous in the digital era, as it can be used to attack and ignore.
Through his works, Gao seeks to highlight the impact of digital culture and technology on society, particularly in relation to politics and censorship. He encourages viewers to reflect on the ways in which we consume information and engage with social media. With his unique approach to blending figuration and digital imagery, Gao’s paintings offer a thought-provoking commentary on our contemporary world.