Oscar yi Hou

Russell & Robert meet artist Oscar yi Hou from his studio in New York. We discuss growing up in Liverpool, poetry, calligraphy and new paintings on the eve of the opening of his solo exhibition 'A sky-licker relation’ at James Fuentes Gallery:


“Oscar yi Hou’s work is anchored in personhood. While this exhibition presents a series of new portraits, what yi Hou’s paintings really record is the relationship shared between the sitter and the artist. Foregoing fixed representation, the works in A sky-licker relation offer a testament to living alongside others. Made over the past year and a half, these works mark the importance and influence of nearness; the being-with of a queer lifeworld.


The exhibition title is itself is the result of a series of relations: skylicker is lifted from Aimé Césaire's poem ‘Cahier d'un retour au pays natal’, which yi Hou first came across in Frantz Fanon’s ‘Wretched of the Earth’. Like the evocation of a sky licker, yi Hou’s given name in Chinese refers to a bird cry (⼀鸣) and he often uses birds as a self-signifier in his paintings and poetry, boundless and in flight. A distinct sense of symmetry can be found in yi Hou’s densely-detailed images, contributing to a compositional logic that is able to hold together a great deal of texture around each of the relationships being represented.


Negotiating questions of opacity and (il)legibility, yi Hou employs polysemic symbols such as the five-pointed star, an icon laden with signification between East and West, to emphasize the buried yet multifarious meanings that surround his subjects. In this vein, at times the artist fuses the Chinese calligraphic tradition with graffiti seen on the streets of New York. Yi Hou also makes poetic use of the borders of his works, treating this marginal space as an expression of the interrelation between him and the sitter—while at the same time reflecting upon the limits of grasping this relation. In doing so, the artist’s paintings of others become a form of address, conjuring new signs and meanings to be shared in space. Here, yi Hou intricately demonstrates, in his words, “painting as a practice of dignity.”


Oscar yi Hou (b. 1998 in Liverpool, England; lives and works in New York) received his BA at Columbia University, New York. His work has been included in exhibitions at T293 Gallery, Rome, Italy; Asia Society, New York; Tong Art Advisory, New York; Half Gallery, New York; Rachel Uffner, New York; Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles; and the Royal Academy, UK. A sky-licker relation follows yi Hou’s exhibition of works on paper at JamesFuentes.Online earlier this year.


Follow @OscyHou on Instagram and also @James_Fuentes_LLC Visit Oscar's official website: https://oscaryihou.com/ and his solo exhibition page at: https://jamesfuentes.com/ Oscar's solo show runs in New York from August 26–September 26, 2021.


A recent painting by Oscar is also included in 'Breakfast Under The Tree' group exhibition curated by Russell Tovey at Carl Freedman Gallery, Margate, UK until 5th September 2021. Follow @CarlFreedmanGallery


For images of all artworks discussed in this episode visit @TalkArt. Talk Art theme music by Jack Northover 

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