Tibet held a special place in the path and work of Gao Bo. It was in this country that the artist took his first photographs in the middle of the 1980s. For this Chinese man born in 1964, who witnessed the cultural revolution and its public executions in his childhood, Tibet was one of the rare possible travel destinations. In 1985, China was still a very closed country: “I had a longing desire to go see somewhere else, to leave this society where I had always lived […] so I chose Tibet, because that was the farthest place I could go and because it was what seemed to me to be the most foreign,” he explains. He was a student at Peking’s School of the Arts at Tsinghua University.
From the many trips to this country he made starting from 1985, he brought back black and white photographs. With every one of his stays, his view of the country and his photographic practice evolved. If his first vision was that of a humanist reporter, it progressively changed into a more artistic approach starting with ethnologically inspired portraits.
Along with the retrospective at the Maison Européene de la Photographie, the Editions Xavier Barral gathered, and published, photographs made between 1985 and 1995 that the artist reworked ten years after being taken. With times, Gao Bo no longer sees photography in a traditional manner. His prints have become a material which he manipulates, covering them with his own blood or assembling them in diptychs or triptychs. Gestures that, at the same time, resemble an homage to the Tibetan people, offerings, as the the title reminds us.
The cover, with its rough canvas and handwritten text, sets the tone of the piece. Just from holding it, you can feel the density of the modestly sized book. But what could have been an inconvenience, given the nature of works formed by an assemblage of images, proved itself to be an advantage because the editor played with it, alternating double pages with small formats white bordered and full-page photographs. A powerful and intense book.
Gao Bo, Tibet 1985-1995. Offrandes
Published by Éditions Xavier Barral