Today, even though more artists of colour are cementing their positions in the highest ranks of the art world, recognizing well-known Asian diasporic artists with established legacies in the art history mainstream level remains difficult. However, because of decades of action and campaigning by artists and art workers, modern artists of colour are receiving more attention throughout their lifetime. The focus of this article is on emerging Asian diaspora artists throughout the world.

1. Catalina Ouyang

Catalina Ouyang’s oeuvre incorporates sculpture, literature, installation, performance, video, interactive initiatives, and other genres to inhabit the interstices of myths, passion, oppression, and ugliness.

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Catalina Ouyang, installation view in “THE SIREN” at Real Art Ways, 2021_©John Groo_©Real Art Ways

She engages with elements, concepts, and tales with which she has developed relationships through the years. An object or material lives with her for a few weeks to a few months until it communicates how it wishes to live. Material and surface transformation fascinates her because it allows her to push against the perceived restrictions of a material or thing.

2. Sasha Gordon

Incredible talent Sasha Gordon creates stunning expressive pieces that explore issues like self-image, exoticization, mental disorders, and the patriarchal gaze. Gordon rapidly became well-known for her artworks that featured vivid characters with gradient skin and glassy eyes. 

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Sasha Gordon, Sore Loser, 2020_©Matthew Brown Los Angeles

Gordon’s technique is motivated by her identity as a biracial Asian woman as well as the numerous ways in which society forces her to own her body, especially about others. While Gordon’s palette is frequently artificially bright, she takes pains to capture genuine details like delicate eyelashes and tiny stitches on trousers and sneakers.

3. Susan Chen

Susan Chen is a visual artist who is looking for the meaning of home. Chen tackles the psychology of race as well as issues such as society, immigration, discrimination, identity, family, desire, love, and grief through painted portraiture.

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Susan Chen, March 16th Remembrance Mums, 2021_©Susan Chen

She is particularly interested in her sitters’ lived experiences as part of the Asian diaspora. Chen finds on the internet and paints in person and through Zoom. She is intrigued by the sociopolitical potency of painting and sculpture to affect change in society through increased exposure and portrayal.

4. Oscar Yi Hou

Oscar Yi Hou (born in 1998 in Liverpool, England; lives and works in New York) is a Chinese-American artist. Yi Hou’s richly detailed pictures have a particular sense of symmetry, which contributes to a compositional logic that can hold together a lot of texture surrounding each of the connections being portrayed.

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Oscar yi Hou, birds of a feather flock together, aka: A New Family Portrait, 2020_©Carl Freedman Gallery

Yi Hou uses polysemic symbols like the five-pointed star, an icon packed with connotation between East and West, to stress the hidden but diverse meanings that surround his objects, negotiating concerns of opacity and readability. In this manner, the artist occasionally combines the Chinese calligraphic heritage with graffiti seen on New York’s streets.

5. Bambou Gili

Bambou Gili’s paintings are saturated in vivid blue and green tones, as though taken from dreams. Young ladies, frequently naked, are the artist’s protagonists, whose extended limbs and faintly glowing skin tones offer her midnight settings a strange cast. These eerie sights have made Gili famous.

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Bambou Gili, Ophelia in the Tub, 2019_©Arsenal Contemporary

Gili combines different materials such as art historical portraiture and animation to create images that are both hilarious and surreal in their protagonists’ physical oddities. Gili’s figures are always alone, save for the occasional feline, and are filled with sentiments of loneliness, yearning, and sorrow.

6. Babneet Lakhesar

Babneet Lakhesar, often known as Babbuthepainter, is a Canadian artist located in Brampton. Her imposing paintings, graphic drawings, and photos are dominated by her strong attitude as a woman of South Asian descent. She is a model in her profession, but she also works as a stylist, photographer, and creative director behind the scenes.

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Babneet Lakhesar_©Kieran Darcy

‘Babbuthepainter’ brings a lot to the table for the world to see and perhaps notice, from giving South Asia’s cultural ups and downs a kitschy twist to combating archaic notions of women in the Indian sub-context through era-appropriated pop art.

Babneet’s view on Indian culture is through the unique lens of an immigrant residing in Toronto and is heavily influenced by pop art and Bollywood’s stereotype of women.

7. Aakash Nihalani

Aakash Nihalani is a one-of-a-kind New York-based artist noted for his 3D geometrical tape illusions. He was born in Queens in 1986 and presently resides in Brooklyn. Aakash Nihalani’s work embodies the core of what art is: the capacity to capture someone’s interest at a moment’s notice.

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Outdoor art_©Aakash Nihalani

Nihalani employs bright, powerful lines in the foreground of all of his artwork to visually create three-dimensional pictures on two-dimensional surfaces. The recurrence of isometric geometric shapes becomes aesthetically appealing, communicating intricacies such as movement and space with something as basic as the positioning of a line. Nihalani’s artwork is intended to capture the viewer’s attention.

8. Karan Singh

Karan Singh is an artist and illustrator who was born in Australia in 1985. His vivid and bold work is a fun version of minimalism that emphasizes depth and dimension via pattern and repetition.

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Apple Amsterdam Logo_©Karansingh

While studying interaction design, the self-taught artist has prioritized visual arts and illustration, deriving influence from graphic design sensibility and op-art minimalism. In terms of pattern repeats, his work is evocative to the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, who uses brilliant, bold colors, patterns, and forceful vectors. Singh recognizes Japanese artists’ impact on his work.

9. Kenneth Tam

He creates work in film, sculpture, installation, and photography that explores masculinity, physical intimacy, and private ritual. Kenneth Tam’s art reimagines settings and social conventions for male bodies to expose vulnerable moments among males.

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Kenneth Tam, performance view of The Crossing at the Kitchen, 2020_©Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles.

Tam’s work examines how Asian men have been stereotyped and stigmatized about the quintessential American masculinity trope: the cowboy. Tam reflects on the entangled histories of Westward expansion and immigration in the United States by working collaboratively with contemporary Asian Diaspora subjects, drawing inspiration from history and centuries of discriminatory practices and representation of the Asian male in media and cinema.

10. Dominique Fung

Fung has had a spectacular career as an artist who graduated from Ontario’s Sheridan Institute of Technology and Design in 2017 and has a bachelor’s degree in applied arts.

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Dominique Fung, Double Happiness, 2021_©Cooper Dodds and Genevieve Hanson_©Jeffrey Deitch, New York_©Nicodim Gallery, Los Angeles.

Fung’s paintings have luscious textures, profound intellectual foundations, and compelling personal qualities. Double Happiness, a painting she displayed this summer at her sold-out New York solo show with Jeffrey Deitch, “It’s Not Polite to Stare,” for example, was made in the aftermath of the epidemic, amid a wave of violence against persons of Asian heritage. The painting, like many of her works, remarks on the fetishization of Asian culture and, in particular, Asian women.

11. Wesaam Al- Badry

Wesaam Al-Badry was born in Nasiriyah, Iraq, in 1984. Al-Badry has worked for international news organizations such as CNN and Al-Jazeera America. His images have appeared in advertisements for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the American Civil Liberties Union, and other international organizations.

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Wesaam Al-Badry ,Mr. Francisco #IV, 2020_©Jenkins Johnson Gallery

While his work primarily focuses on photojournalism and documentary photography, Al-Badry also develops multimedia art that confronts and analyses societal conventions and representation, the Iraqi diaspora, and textile. Jenkins Johnson Gallery in San Francisco, CA represents him. Al-Badry now resides in Berkeley.

12. Timothee Lai

Timothy Lai’s vibrant, flowing figurative paintings explore his mixed identity via the language of art history and folklore. Lai, who was born in Malaysia to a Mexican American mother and a Chinese father, transitioned from abstraction to figuration during his MFA studies in painting at the Rhode Island School of Design.

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Timothy Lai,After an Abrupt Realization, 2020_©Jack Barrett

Lai’s paintings include uniquely deformed characters and are based on circumstances from his personal life, such as managing interracial relationships. The artist’s honesty in constructing his trip allows the observer to enter his distinct cosmos, where reality is evanescent and reverie reigns supreme.

13. Albert Yowshien Kuo

Albert Yowshien Kuo is a 1985-born American Postwar & Contemporary artist. Albert Yowshien Kuo’s art has already been displayed in several important galleries and institutions, including Praise Shadows Art Gallery.

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Yowshien Kuo, ​Infernal Affairs, 2021_ ©Yowshien Kuo

Asian cowboys run crazy in Yowshien Kuo’s portrayals of the Wild West. Faces of Death (2018), for example, depicts an Asian guy costumed as the Marlboro Man in a red flannel shirt, tan cowboy hat, and leather chaps grasping a young deer by its horns. Faces of Death, by presenting an Asian man as this idealized image of rugged white masculinity, evokes both the importance Chinese immigrants served in westward expansion and the lack of such people in the United States’ conception of the Old West.

14. Kang Seung Lee

Kang Seung Lee is a multidisciplinary artist from South Korea who currently lives and works in Los Angeles. His work typically confronts the legacy of international queer history, especially when they interact with art history.

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Kang Seung Lee, installation view of Untitled (QueerArch), 2018–21, in the 13th Gwangju Biennale, Gwangju, 2021. Photo by Sang tae Kim_©Gwangju Biennale

Lee’s workplaces highlight marginalized individual experiences and personal histories that challenge solitary dominant history/knowledge, which is frequently restricted, skewed, and geared toward the first world. His work allows for the emergence of alternative personal voices and counter-narratives by investigating, rediscovering, and appropriating pictures and texts from public and private archives such as art/artifact collections, periodicals, libraries, diverse queer archives, and so on. Lee often works with artists and activists from many groups to organize initiatives that represent the ideas of participation, education, and shared art experience.

15. Maia Cruz Plalileo

Maia Cruz Palileo is a creative artist located in Brooklyn. Maia’s artworks, installations, sculptures, and drawings are replete with references to migration and the ephemeral idea of home. Maia mixes her stories with both memory and imagination, inspired by intergenerational oral histories of moving to the United States from the Philippines, as well as the two nations’ troubled colonial past. When stories and recollections are exposed to the passage of time and repeated recounting, the narratives become suspect, straddling the line between reality and fiction while staying clothed in the convincingly familiar.

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Maia Cruz Palileo, Flores, 2020_©Monique Meloche

16. Sheela Gowda

Gowda, who was born in Bhadravati, Karnataka in 1957, went on to study painting at the Royal College of Art in London in 1986 before settling in Switzerland.

Cut Flowers_©Sheela Gowda

She creates massive installations and sculptures that fascinate the surroundings by using elements connected with India — human hair talismans, cow dung, kumkum (red turmeric), incense, and tar drums. Gowda applies craft skills carefully by hand, reacting to the condition of manual labor in the face of India’s social and economic transformation, as well as its relevance in the production of art.

Through their work, each of these artists examines the complex relationship between globalization and local culture and confronts the difficulty of defining one’s identity in the Diaspora. Their art is defined not only by cross-cultural experience but also by a continual shifting of values. Consequently, Diaspora art is constantly evolving to reflect a new world order. 

References:

  1. NARS Foundation. 2022. NARS Foundation – CatalinaOuyang. [online] Available at: <https://www.narsfoundation.org/catalinaouyang> [Accessed 27 February 2022].
  2. Artnews.com. 2022. Sasha Gordon’s Perturbing Paintings of Recreation at Matthew Brown – ARTnews.com. [online] Available at: <https://www.artnews.com/art-in-america/features/sasha-gordon-perturbing-paintings-1234595010/> [Accessed 27 February 2022].
  3. Susan Chen. 2022. Susan Chen. [online] Available at: <https://susanmbchen.com/> [Accessed 27 February 2022].
  4. Oscaryihou.com. 2022. Oscar Yi Hou. [online] Available at: <https://oscaryihou.com/> [Accessed 27 February 2022].
  5. Wong, H., 2022. 16 Rising Artists of the Asian Diaspora. [online] Artsy. Available at: <https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-16-rising-artists-asian-diaspora> [Accessed 27 February 2022].
  6. Nigam, R., 2022. Indian origin artists | Indian Diaspora artists – Media India Group. [online] Media India Group. Available at: <https://mediaindia.eu/diaspora/indian-origin-artists-shaping-contemporary-art/> [Accessed 27 February 2022].
  7. Street Art Bio. 2022. About Aakash Nihalani Biography | Street Artist. [online] Available at: <https://www.streetartbio.com/artists/aakash-nihalani/> [Accessed 27 February 2022].
  8. Karan Singh. 2022. About & Contact — Karan Singh. [online] Available at: <http://www.madebykaran.com/about> [Accessed 27 February 2022].
  9. Kennethtam.info. 2022. Bio — Kenneth Tam. [online] Available at: <https://kennethtam.info/Bio> [Accessed 27 February 2022].
  10. Artnet News. 2022. Five Years Ago, Dominique Fung Was Painting in a Basement Below a Toronto Nail Salon. Now, She’s the Toast of the Art World. [online] Available at: <https://news.artnet.com/art-world/dominique-fung-2002197> [Accessed 27 February 2022].
  11. Queensmuseum.org. 2022. Queens Museum. [online] Available at: <https://queensmuseum.org/2021/01/kenneth-tam> [Accessed 27 February 2022].
  12. Wesaamalbadry.com. 2022. [online] Available at: <https://www.wesaamalbadry.com/Bio/1> [Accessed 27 February 2022].
  13. Artsy.net. 2022. Timothy Lai – 27 Artworks, Bio & Shows on Artsy. [online] Available at: <https://www.artsy.net/artist/timothy-lai> [Accessed 27 February 2022].
  14. Mutualart.com. 2022. Albert Yowshien Kuo | Biography. [online] Available at: <https://www.mutualart.com/Artist/Albert-Yowshien-Kuo/7BB633B1A4F84FE3/Biography> [Accessed 27 February 2022].
  15. Galleryhyundai.com. 2022. Kang Seung Lee – GALLERY HYUNDAI. [online] Available at: <https://www.galleryhyundai.com/artist/view/20000000115> [Accessed 27 February 2022].
Author

A final-year architecture student who enjoys traveling and learning about culture, architecture, and history. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and scribbling down her ideas. She attempts to capture many perspectives on the world through her writings.

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