Gu's work is timely in its ambitious attempt to address in artistic terms the issue of globalism that dominates discussions of contemporary economics, society and culture. The scope of his vision is remarkable. He collapses the ancient into the future, going back to time-honored traditional methods. At the same time, his compositions reveal his complex message in unexpected forms. Words, languages and calligraphy are just some of the components of his works that catalyze discussion and broaden awareness among viewers.
His two large ink paintings incorporate landscape and hulk-sized calligraphy, displaying not only his highly distinctive style, but also very personal biographical details, which explain why Gu in 1986 became the leading exponent of radical Asian character painting in mainland China: As a child, Gu was hired to create "big character" propaganda posters for Mao's Red Guard. At his first solo exhibit in China in 1986, Gu displayed a series of his trademark huge ink paintings but with deliberate, unintelligible mis-writing, which was seen by some critics as a rebellious gesture against the manipulative use of language during the Maoist era. Suspecting political sabotage, and frustrated by their inability to understand Gu's imaginary writing, the Chinese propaganda department closed his show before it opened. The misunderstandings, and the limits of knowledge based on language, have formed the touchstone of Gu's work ever since.