Oscar yi Hou



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DRAFT OF AN ARTIST'S STATEMENT 11:52, Wed, January 1st 2020
Oscar yi Hou (b. 1998, Liverpool, UK). Lives and works in New York City.

yi Hou’s work is first and foremost oriented by a deep desire for humanness and is rooted in the human condition. Working mainly in painting, what ultimately drives his practise is testament (with the world ending, and all)— testament to having had lived, to relationality, and to humanness; painting as a practise of dignity.

Influenced heavily by his own diasporic upbringing, yi Hou’s work explores concepts and identities of hybridity. Interrogating the binaries of this/that, here/there, Orient/Occident, he refuses a clear knowability, evading any essentialising effects. Disidentifying with the either-or, yi Hou opts instead for a neither-here-nor-there— that is to say, he practises a perpetual inbetweenedness. Socially marked in multiple ways, it is within this tension of a “complex personhood,” as Avery Gordon puts it, that yi Hou deploys a highly syncretic iconography. The eclecticism of his paintings disrupt and remix traditional semiotic relations between Orient/Occident, subject/object. Influenced heavily by a diasporic relationship to language and the concept of a “mother tongue”, yi Hou’s scrawls words and poetry throughout his paintings, fusing an English and Chinese script together, negotiating (il)legibility.

Concerned with problems and questions vis-a-vis the (sovereign) subject, yi Hou gestures beyond a simple politics of representationalism. His toying with (il)legibility relates to his insistence on a complicated subjecthood, one that is perhaps never knowable nor containable. His treatment of borders speaks to his concern with subject sovereignty. Rather than being constrained by the materiality of canvas, whose physical dimensions delimit the space a ‘subject’ may occupy, yi Hou’s paintings instead craft their own arbitrary boundaries to show the contingency and restrictiveness of any material border. Utilising the decorative and the symbolic, yi Hou’s work with borders also exhibits a sustained focus on marginal space and the poetic possibilities that lie within them.

yi Hou’s work bears similarities with the poet Frank O’Hara’s idea of Personism, perhaps best described as addressivity to another as an endeavour of love. In O’Hara’s words, “evoking the overtones of love without destroying love’s life-giving vulgarity”. In essence, yi Hou’s work focuses a representation of relationality— of intersubjectivity. He eschews the idea of a single ‘subject’, gesturing instead to a relational form of being.

Suggesting fabulation as recourse to the stultifying confinement of realism, it is through yi Hou’s aesthetic syncretism that he invents new symbols, artefacts, and elements within his paintings. Describing himself as a “FORWARD-FACING FUTURITY-FOCUSED FAGGOT,” it is through these interventions of imagination that yi Hou formulates new possibilities for queerness, Yellowness, and diasporic becoming.

SUSU RAWWAGAH 20:05, Mon, June 10th 2019
British-Chinese artist Oscar yi Hou is a jack of many trades: though first and foremost an accomplished visual artist, yi Hou has dabbled in photography, music, and design and is now based in New York City, where he studies visual arts at Columbia University. Exploring themes of personhood, sexuality, Chinese diaspora, and young adulthood, yi Hou’s portraits embrace, in his words, the “idea of life from the assertion of the personal and the subjectification of subjects in opposition to the objectivization.” Made up of determined brushstrokes and thick, vibrant layers, yi Hou’s portraits are also impressive feats of texture and technique. Intensely and carefully detailed, you could spend hours studying his paintings, following the brushstrokes, tracing the depth, and deciphering the doodles in the margins. But perhaps more striking is yi Hou’s unique ability to vividly capture his tender, often intimate relationships with his subjects, inviting the viewer into introspective reflections of self, experience, and identity. We sat down with yi Hou in his studio to learn more about his pieces, the influences behind his artistry, and what it means for him to succeed as an artist [...]

AMANDA BA 00:10, Thurs, Jan 25th, 2018
Oscar yi Hou is a young British Chinese artist currently studying visual arts at Columbia University. He is from Liverpool, Britain, and his parents are from Guangdong, China. His paintings are tender and thoughtful reflections of self, life, and experience. The proximity of his subjects can be felt through his determined brushstrokes and solicitous rendering as he explores the Chinese diaspora, the confines of gender and sexuality, and his own coming of age.

13:03, Fri, Jan 12th, 2018
Oscar yi Hou is a young artist based in New York City. He is from Liverpool, UK, and his parents are from Guangdong, China.

He studies at Columbia University, loves his friends, and likes long walks on the beach